Print 19 comment(s) - last by Pessimism.. on Jun 23 at 9:36 AM

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).

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Highly misleading names
By Flunk on 6/22/2011 10:13:04 AM , Rating: 1
The i7-2637M specs are more in line with the normal line of i3 chips. Calling it an i7 is highly misleading, if Intel doesn't even respect their own market segmentation how can they expect anyone else to?

The way this is going we're going to have to add another page to the specs sheets required to figure out the difference between their different but nearly the same product lineup.

RE: Highly misleading names
By nafhan on 6/22/2011 10:44:14 AM , Rating: 2
They've done a good job with the desktop chips, but for the mobile ones, it seems like the number after the "i" is mainly an indicator of price. Performance and specs seem to be a secondary concern when picking the name for the mobile Sandy Bridge chips...

RE: Highly misleading names
By MrTeal on 6/22/2011 11:06:51 AM , Rating: 4
How is it misleading? The i3, i5 and i7 monikers don't refer to absolute performance, they refer to features. IE, the i3s don't support Turbo Boost, while the i5s do. The dual core mobile i5s have 3MB of L3, while the DC i7s have 4MB. It's not quite as clearcut as the desktops since all the mobile chips have hyperthreading enabled, but there's still architectural differences between the i3s, i5s and i7s.

RE: Highly misleading names
By Amoro on 6/22/2011 2:27:29 PM , Rating: 1
Shouldn't they refer to absolute performance though? Otherwise you run into people thinking that these Core i7's are faster than the other quad-core i7's. For example, someone may think that the Core i7 2677M will perform better than the Core i7 2630QM. Sure, there is a Q there to denote quad-core but not everyone knows that, especially your average buyer. They'll just see the higher model number.

RE: Highly misleading names
By BSMonitor on 6/22/2011 2:49:16 PM , Rating: 2
But the user is looking for the best processor for a light notebook / long battery life experience. They wouldn't put one of these in a 17" desktop replacement laptop. So in the market where these processors will be sold, the higher model number is justified.

You are only looking at one metric for labeling a processor. Pure computing horsepower.

RE: Highly misleading names
By MrTeal on 6/22/2011 2:50:48 PM , Rating: 3
It's not just a performance number though, and it's not meant to be. Take the i3-2105 for example. The 5 doesn't mean that it's a little better than the 2100 but worse than the 2120, it means that it is basically the same as the 2100 but has HD3000 graphics instead of HD2000. Is it better than the 2100? Sure. Is it worse than the 2120? That's tougher. The 2120 is clocked higher, so it would do better on CPU intensive tasks like rendering, compression or encoding. Running games using the integrated GPU would be much faster on the 2105. Encoding using Quick Sync might even be faster on 2105 than the 2120, I'm not sure if there's a speed difference in QS between the 3000 and 2000 GPU.

That's just 2 pretty similar chips. Now add in turbo boost vs none, hyper threading vs none, large vs small cache, 2 vs 4 cores taking into account how well threaded an application is... How would you organize that so that it gives you a nice number scale that indicates "absolute performance"?

RE: Highly misleading names
By Amoro on 6/22/2011 3:24:15 PM , Rating: 2
It would be nice if it was marketed like the desktop CPU's. This way there wouldn't be any room for confusion and no one would doubt which CPU is more powerful. Why change it for mobile? All desktop Core i7's are quad-core and hyper-threaded. Then you look at the notebooks and there are dual-core Core i7's AND quad-core Core i7's. It's very odd and confusing.

Even if you're in the market for these types of machines with low-power CPU's, don't you want to compare the power against other "normal" voltage CPU's? How else will know how fast that CPU is? I think the model number should explain a lot without having to think too much. You shouldn't have to look on a wiki to know how fast that CPU really is.

RE: Highly misleading names
By MrTeal on 6/22/2011 3:45:56 PM , Rating: 2
I think the model number should explain a lot without having to think too much. You shouldn't have to look on a wiki to know how fast that CPU really is.

I agree the desktop space is better differentiated than the mobile one, but even there it's not simple. Take the i5-2500k vs the i7-2600. Which is better? Well, the i7 has 100MHz higher stock and TB clocks, and hyperthreading. The i5 is unlocked and will be much faster in gaming situations using the integrated GPU.

The simple fact is that we are no longer in the days of the 286 where you can just look at the speed and say "this one is better than that one"

RE: Highly misleading names
By Amoro on 6/22/2011 6:13:11 PM , Rating: 2
I don't see how the 2500K would be faster even in games. The 2600 has a 250MHz higher turbo ceiling on the GPU in addition to 100MHz clock/turbo on the CPU and 2 extra MB of L3 cache. Unless you're talking about overclocking it past the turbo ceiling.

I think a better comparison for your point would be the 2600S. Even in that case, the 2600S has the same advantages as the 2600. If turbo worked perfectly every time, the 2600S would go up to 3.8GHz and beat the 2500K.

It's definitely much more complex than it was even 5+ years ago. We can't compare pure megehertz, but isn't that why we even have model numbers? So we can tell which CPU is better/faster?

RE: Highly misleading names
By MrTeal on 6/23/2011 8:33:56 AM , Rating: 2
The 2500K would be quite a bit faster in games. Remember that the K series uses the HD 3000 GPU with twice the number of EUs as the HD 2000 used in the i7-2600.

Title is a bit silly
By damianrobertjones on 6/22/2011 10:07:50 AM , Rating: 2
"Intel Airs New Low-Voltage Sandy Bridge Chips, Aimed at MacBook Air"

more like..

"Intel Airs New Low-Voltage Sandy Bridge Chips, Aimed at any oem that pays for them"

RE: Title is a bit silly
By blazeoptimus on 6/22/2011 11:22:08 AM , Rating: 2
Eh, apple has somewhat set the trend for the class of laptop that uses this chip. You only need to look at the new asus laptop to realize that there imitating apple as heavily as possible. In that way, the "MacBook Air" has driven the market for these chips. It is possible that if apple hadn't originated this super-thin/light performance category, that the only options available would be Atom / Bronzo.

RE: Title is a bit silly
By TakinYourPoints on 6/22/2011 8:36:49 PM , Rating: 2
Absolutely. It is important to note that the CPUs in the original MBAs used custom packages that Intel and Apple collaborated on. Those weren't available in other manufacturers notebooks until later in the year when they followed up with their own ultraslims that were a direct reaction to the MBA design.

RE: Title is a bit silly
By Solandri on 6/22/2011 9:17:50 PM , Rating: 2
It is possible that if apple hadn't originated this super-thin/light performance category, that the only options available would be Atom / Bronzo.

Apple hardly originated the category. I had this Toshiba Portege back in 2000.

22mm may sound thick compared to a MacBook Air, but you have to remember LCDs were a lot thicker back then. The lower half of the laptop was little more than half the total thickness - just enough to hold a 9.5 mm hard drive under the keyboard. It had a problem where it would tip over if you tilted the screen too far back.

It culminated in the Portege R100, which weighed in at 2.4 lbs (lighter than the original Air, with extended battery same weight as the Air) and 18mm. This was in 2003, 5 years before the MacBook Air.

You'll notice these were also a lot better outfitted than an Air. Full ports and expansion slots, only lacking an optical drive. Having owned one, I was rather underwhelmed when the Air was first announced.

But I guess people only remember what they like. Reminds me of the folks back in 1995 who thought Microsoft invented the Internet when they finally added a TCP/IP stack to Windows.

Settle Down
By BSMonitor on 6/22/2011 1:57:41 PM , Rating: 3
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).

Can we keep the sensational speculation to a minimum, please.

MacBook Air still runs a real PC/Mac OS. Not a slimmed down smart phone OS. ARM processors are WOEFULLY underpowered for running real PC/Mac applications.

RE: Settle Down
By Solandri on 6/22/2011 9:34:34 PM , Rating: 2
The ARM processor in your phone today is about as fast as a Pentium 3. As someone who did software development on an 800 MHz P3 fresh out of grad school, I can assure you they are plenty powerful enough for running "real PC/Mac applications".

What's happened is that Intel/AMD CPUs have gotten so fast that software writers have had the luxury to waste CPU cycles on trivialities. Today's apps are loaded down with fancy animations, transparency, and other frills which don't contribute anything to actual productivity, they just make everything look better. I suspect there's also a lot less effort going into profiling too (profiling = finding the slow parts of your code and making them faster). Consequently, if you could run those apps on ARM they would lag badly. But if you could strip them down to just the bare productivity functionality and optimize them better, they will run fine.

Long-term, this is where you're going to see most of the development. The Intel CPUs are already so fast that even the lowest end model is "fast enough" for 95% of users. That percentage is going to continue going up over time. So instead of the drive being towards faster CPUs, we're (finally) going to see more drive towards power efficiency.

RE: Settle Down
By BSMonitor on 6/23/2011 9:23:55 AM , Rating: 1

Try running iTunes and convert a few songs/videos into the library and tell me a Pentium 3 800 MHz is fast enough.

You must be THAT guy that is soooo proud of his company's old computer sale that you loaded up your house with 10 Pentium 3 machines with 512MB of RAM for $10 a piece. Congrats, but you have 10 outdated POS.

Try adobe flash or java on that Pentium 3 800MHz.


RE: Settle Down
By Pessimism on 6/23/2011 9:36:56 AM , Rating: 2
Itunes is one of the overly animated and flashy, bloated apps he is talking about. A P3 or ARM cpu is plenty fast enough to PLAY said audio tracks, its your choice if you feel the need to have itunes needlessly convert your files when there are a myriad of players that would play them unconverted.

Flash is universally known as a bloated, resource hogging scourge that should never have gained the popularity it did. Fullscreen a low resolution youtube video on a big box store entry level PC and enjoy the slideshow.

By damianrobertjones on 6/22/2011 10:08:20 AM , Rating: 2
The Asus EP121 would really be that bit better if it had one of the above bad boys

"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken

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