Intel talks next gen desktops

Lynnfield, Clarkdale and Pine Trail

INTEL TALKED MOSTLY about mobile solutions at Computex, but desktop and consumer electronics were far from neglected. New were two i7 CPUs, talk of Lynnfield, Pinetrail, and even flash based accelerators.

The main push was Lynnfield, the quad core, dual channel Nehalem variant that gets coupled with the upcoming P55 chipset. If you are thinking that this sounds like the little brother to the astonishingly fast i7, you are right. According to tests done by Anand, the loss of a third memory channel isn’t much of a handicap.

If the numbers he posted are accurate, it looks like the memory controller problems we heard about prior to Computex have been ironed out. Even with the limited PCIe lanes of the P55 chipset, this CPU could be the foundation for a very solid work or gaming box, and the mainstream gaming platform for 2010.

Coming next year in a ‘2010 Intel 5 Series Chipset’ is support for a technology code named Braidwood. This is a flash accelerator for I/O, basically a SO-DIMM with a few flash chips on it to use as a HD cache. MS tried this with their Readyboost technology a while ago.

Readyboost made Vista so fast that the term Broken OS was cemented and corporations around the world spurned it. The concept fell flat when MS tried it, and we don’t see a much better fate when Intel tries it. If you want speed, save your cash and buy an SSD, it will do what these technologies promise to. Prepare to be underwhelmed.

In what can be seen as a great apology for Braidwood, Intel released two new i7 parts, the Extreme 975 and the more rational but still fast 950. The 975 runs at 3.33GHz, has 8MB of cache, and 6.40GT/s CSI. The 950 loses the extreme name, runs at 3.06GHz, and steps the CSI down to 4.80GT/s, but is otherwise the same die. If you want a very fast CPU, you can do a lot worse than either of these processors.

The talk of a monitor PC form factor was accompanied by several related SFF announcements. The biggest by far was the first public showing of Pine Trail, the next generation Atom CPU. We told you about the specs earlier, it is the second generation IALP/Atom architecture with an integrated memory controller and GPU.

Pine Trail die

Dwarfed by cameras and SFF PCs

As you can see, it is a single die solution, not an MCM. Consequently, the die size has grown noticeably since Silverthorne based parts, but these do a lot more. The packaging has also shrunk a lot, meaning boards made from Pine Trail can be much smaller than other solutions.

The last desktop variant Intel was showing off is Clarkdale, the mainstream CPU for 2010. It couples a 32nm Westmere CPU with a G55 class GPU on one package. The earlier Nehalem + G55 parts were killed for technical and time to market reasons, so Intel pulled Clarkdale in to file the hole in their lineup.

Clarkdale picture

Note the die sizes

Intel is known for integrated GPUs that aspire to mediocrity, but this time around, they did right. A dual core second generation Nehalem plus adequate graphics means two things, big sales to the corporate world and the end of chipsets. Nvidia can whine and pout all they want, but you are seeing the endgame right here.

The most interesting thing coming from the slides Intel showed off was the relative die sizes of the GPU and CPU. It looks like Intel is finally giving the GPU team the transistor budget they need to compete with the ATI 780G. If the driver team also gets the same loving attention, this one will be a market winner.

Computex 2009 showed that the desktop world is alive and well despite a plethora of obituaries. These products will more than keep enthusiasts happy, just add Ubuntu or XP and off you go.S|A



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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate