New stickers and new processors, WOO-HOO!

Leaving that on the side… Within 4 months Intel did not only release the Core i7s for high-end laptops, called “Clarksfield” and a new netbook platform called “Pine Trail”,  but it has also changed how every other laptop will look like on the inside. The “Arrandale” chips, which are officially dubbed as the mainstream Intel Core i7s, Core i5s and Core i3s CPUs, will be found inside of the majority of laptops this year. These CPUs are, in essence, the continuation of Clarksfield, which was announced back in September 2009, except every one of these processors will have two physical cores instead of four.

Let’s break it down for ya.

The name “Arrendale” encompasses myriad new processor model and these are divide into three categories and each turn brach into standard, low and ultra-low voltage classifications:

1. Core i7s (not to be confused with the quad-core Core i7s)

  • Core i7-620M(2.66GHz, Standard Voltage)
  • Core i7-640M(2.13GHz, Low Voltage)
  • Core i7-620LM(2.0GHz, ULV)
  • Core i7-620UM(1.06GHz, ULV)
  • Core i7-640UM(1.2GHz, ULV)

2. Core i5s

  • Core i5-520M(2.4GHz, Standard Voltage)
  • Core i5-540M(2.53GHz, Standard Voltage)
  • Core i5-430M(2.26GHz, Standad Voltage)
  • Core i5-520UM(1.06GHz, ULV)

3. Core i3s

  • Core i3-350M(2.26GHz)
  • Core i3-330M(2.13GHz)

It seems that mainstream laptops have been trapped in the dual core era for ever, and Arrandale is not going to change that. Nevertheless, with the existence of virtual cores or “HyperThreading”, each core will have two threads, in other words, your OS will recognize them as a processor with four cores; similarly, the high-end Core i7s have four physical cores, but give the impression of an 8-core system.

Since processors rely heavily on a memory caching systems, this memory has a profound effect on performance. The Core 2 Duos have two cache systems: L1 and L2; meanwhile, Arrandale inherits Clarksfield three-level cache hierarchy, where each core has its own L1(32KB), L2(256KB) and L3(3-4MB) of memory. This means faster speeds, plain and simple.

Getting rid of the aging Front Side Bus (FSB) and integrating the memory and a PCI-e (Peripheral Component Integrate Express) controller (graphics) into the processor package, Intel goes with a new system that gets rid of the physical chip called NorthBridge. It’s like replacing a highway with a collection of shorter ones, which then are joined to the processor die. An increase in memory bandwidth also signals a complete shift to DDR3 memory, supporting speeds up to 1,333MHz.

If the NorthBridge no longer exists in Arrendale, where do you put the new graphics chipset? Intel figured out that the only way to scale performance was to move these parts closer to the processor. Like the integrated memory controller, the new integrated graphics shares a living space with the processor, and is appropriately called Core i7 with HD Graphics, Core i5 with HD Graphics and so on. Because of this, every single laptop from here on will have integrated graphics (even the ones with discrete graphics cards).

The new graphics subsystem can stream to multiple monitors, with support for dual HDMI and DisplayPort technologies. Professional audio like the Dolby 7.1 is also supported.

Ever heard of Turbo Boost? Turbo Boost is an intelligent form of over-clocking, Intel automatically activates its when you need it and shuts it down when you don’t. What does this mean? Much of the software in use today is single threaded, and therefore unable to take advantage of the multi-core and multi-threaded technology. So, what happens when one of the cores is inactive? Intel figured out a way channel a burst of energy from the inactive core to the active one, boosting the operating performance of every-day tasks. With only two cores, Arrendale enlists the help of the integrated graphics. Installing software or working on Word documents can reap the benefits of Turbo Boost. It’s a burst of energy that speeds up, say a Core i5 540M(2.53GHz) to 3.06Ghz, if needed. Same thing would happen if a portion of the graphics is struggling with 3D tasks: a similar burst of speed would originate from the processor.

One the other hand, if you are running a highly-threaded application like Adobe Photoshop CS4 or the lasted 3D games, or an application the takes advantage of the multi-core and multi-threaded technology, then the Turbo Boost would take a seat and all the cores would run at their specified speed. Unlike traditional over-clocking, the user doesn’t have to do anything to activate it.

By saying bye-bye to the NorthBridge, Arrendale turns what was physically a three-chip design into a two-chip one. The first chip is made up from the processor and graphics die, but the second chip governs every single connectivity port tethered to any internal or external gadgets. Intel gave this chip an official name: The Intel 5 Series Chipset.

What does this mean to you? This new “breed” of Intel processors paves the way for thinner and lighter laptops, while increasing performance.Thankfully, prices won’t look any different than what you’re used to seeing online and in stores.

Information gathered from: Intel Rolls Out Mobile Processors. You can check out the benchmark scores of the new Intel processors (courtesy of PCMag).