Rear view of a Santa Rosa All-in-one PC

Intel's standard mini PC

Mobile units based on ultra-small custom components
Intel prepares to make a big splash into notebook and small form factor PCs

Intel has been pushing forward in a very strong way with platforms, ever since Centrino was introduced. A collection of different technologies brought together for some designed purpose was much more interesting to Intel from a marketing standpoint than just selling processors. Earlier this year at IDF, Intel talked briefly about its next-generation desktop and mobile platform codenamed Santa Rosa. The new platform, which is slated to succeed the current Napa platform, is due out in March of 2007, but now we have some more concrete details about just what sets Santa Rosa apart and just what we can expect Intel to deliver when launch date approaches.

Santa Rosa systems will revolve around Intel's Merom processor -- the successor to the current Core Duo and Core Solo processor family -- now called Core 2 Duo.  Intel's next-generation chipset for Santa Rosa is codenamed Crestline, and is based on Intel's 965 chipset family. Crestline will deliver dual integrated graphics capabilities or support for discrete graphics using the GMA X3000 graphics engine. DDR2 667MHz/533MHz will be the standard memory of choice and Crestline will support either 800MHz or 667MHz FSB configurations. Paired with Intel's ICH8M, Crestline will also support Intel's Robson NAND flash module technology that will be introduced when Santa Rosa launches.

As part of the Santa Rosa standard, Intel will require that all systems based on the new platform support HDMI and UDI interfaces for graphics output. HDCP will also be a standard requirement for Windows Vista support as well as for Blu-ray and HD-DVD content protection. Santa Rosa will be able to support Windows Vista Premium requirements just by integrated graphics alone.

Non-portable configurations of Centrino have unofficially been dubbed Mobile on DeskTop (MODT) in Intel circles for years.  AOpen, ECS and Universal Abit all have shipping products revolving around the Napa chipset on non-portable systems.  With Santa Rosa, Intel is breaking down the non-mobile platform into different categories: all-in-one PCs, entertainment PCs, ultra-sleek PCs and mini PCs.

All-in-one devices will have the LCD screen as well as all other components (CPU, memory) integrated into one panel similar to the way Apple designs its latest iMac. Intel will also be pushing "mini" form-factor PCs too. While many manufacturers such as Acer and Apple have already shipped mini-style systems, Intel will now make these MODT projects officially sanctioned for the Santa Rosa platform. Sleek systems will be able to stand vertically, similar in fashion to Sony's PlayStation 2 console.

Intel Santa Rosa Platform Configurations
Design Motherboard Dimensions (LxWxH) Max Power (W) Noise (dBA)
Desktop MicroATX or
Mini PCB
430x400x65mm or
203.0 4.28
All-in-one Custom Depends on LCD 130.0 3.37
Mini Custom 170x170x50mm or
107.8 - 112.8 3.1
Mobile Custom 215x275x50mm or
116.1 3.37

Mobile with
standard PCB

MicroATX or
430x320x50mm 116.1 3.37

Intel will also be taking Santa Rosa mobile with a small form factor based very much on its all-in-one design but minus an integrated LCD screen. These units are flat and are slightly larger than the mini PCs. Desktop versions will also be flat; appearing almost like a half-length 1U chassis and are able to take standard desktop components such as add-in cards, optical drives and larger hard drives. From the above comparison chart, all Santa Rosa platforms will be fairly flat, taking not very much room and most will be able to fit right into a home theater component rack. Power consumption and noise levels are significantly less than standard desktop PCs but are actually a hair higher than Napa-based systems. Of course, exact performance figures will be dependent a manufacturer's choice of components.

In terms of storage, Santa Rosa supports Intel's Robson NAND flash memory technology, integrated directly into the motherboard chipsets or as a small add-in card. Whether or not a hybrid hard drive is used, a Santa Rosa system will be able to save data to NAND flash memory and even boot the system from it. This will allow Santa Rosa PCs to perform what Intel calls Instant On and Instant Off, much like standard A/V equipment.

Santa Rosa PCs will also be supporting Intel's next-generation Wi-Fi module, codenamed Kedron. With Kedron, Intel will be supporting the new 802.11n standard that is still currently being hammered out. Kedron will support all the current 802.11a, b and g standards when it is introduced. At Computex last week, ECS demonstrated a Santa Rosa based prototype notebook that featured Kedron

Platforms are clearly a strong focus for Intel after the success of Centrino; earlier this year the company announced its Viiv initiative for HTPCs and Santa Rosa based PCs like the ones mentioned today, followed by the business vPro platform.  Interestingly enough, DailyTech also ran an article on desktop-replacement notebooks that may actually use the Core 2 Duo Conroe desktop processor, which seems to be the inverse of the MODT project.  Intel insiders have assured us the Santa Rosa MODT projects will have working products in Q1'07 to coincide with the Viiv 1.7 release.

"It seems as though my state-funded math degree has failed me. Let the lashings commence." -- DailyTech Editor-in-Chief Kristopher Kubicki

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