The new Sandy Bridge CPUs are expected to pop up in a refreshed version of the MacBook Air within a month.  (Source: Apple)

They'll also be prominently featured in ASUS's new slick UX21 ultraportable.  (Source: ASUSTek)
New chips draw a mere 17 watts

Intel Corp. (INTC) has its hands full, facing threats from ARM Holdings plc's (ARMH) surging consortium of chipmakers and a rejuvenated Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) [1][2][3].  ARM processors have traditionally ran circles around Intel's designs in power consumption and thus have dominated the small mobile device market.  Meanwhile, AMD's new Fusion processors are looking pretty good themselves, with strong integrated graphics than current Sandy Bridge offerings, equivalent power consumption, and a lower price tag.

But Intel has just released a new set of chips that may trash Fusion's power levels and performance, and hold off ARM for a bit longer.  The new parts are all dual-core low voltage Sandy Bridge designs.

The new chips are:
  • Core i7-2677M: 2 cores, 1.8GHz (2.9GHz Turbo), 4MB cache, 17 watts, $317 USD
  • Core i7-2637M: 2 cores, 1.7GHz (2.8GHz Turbo), 4MB cache, 17 watts, $289 USD
  • Core i5-2557M: 2 cores, 1.7GHz (2.7GHz Turbo), 3MB cache, 17 watts, $250 USD
The second mentioned clock speed is Sandy Bridge's "TurboBoost" feature.  Similar to AMD's "TurboCore" feature found in its new Llano Fusion APUs, TurboBoost bumps the clock speed of the chip during times when high performance is demanded.  By keeping the clock speed typically much lower most of the time, the chips can save a lot of power.

Both CNET and MacRumors are speculating that the chips are aimed at ultra-portable laptops, such as the MacBook Air (which coincidentally would be the most palatable target for an ARM-powered Mac notebook).  

The MacBook Air is expected to be refreshed sometime in June or July.  July seems the most likely date, as a refresh could coincide with the launch of Apple's new personal computer operating system, OS X 10.7 "Lion". 

CNET says the Core i7-2557M chip will also be used in the upcoming Asus UX21 ultraportable by ASUSTEK Computer Inc.'s (TPE:2357).

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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