This year we've heard a lot of hype about dual cores, but as of yet they've only made an appearance on server, workstation and to some degree desktop systems, with no sign of them in portables (except the not-so-portable Rockdirect Xtreme64, which we have just reviewed). That's all set to change with Intel's next generation of Centrino, something you may be familiar with under the code name Napa.
We already know quite a bit about what's going into Napa, but until today Intel hasn't officially revealed the new Centrino branding. More on that shortly. First, let's go over what Napa's about.
Intel is taking a four pronged approach towards improving mobile computing. New 65nm dual core CPUs are of course part of that, but general performance is also being worked on, not just processing power. As our demands for mobile multimedia increase, so much graphics and decoding abilities. With greater performance comes the risk of shorter battery life, so the second of Intel's focus points in saving power and extending battery life. Next we have the latest in wireless LAN technology, supporting the most recent security standards, and finally improvements to the notebook form factor for easier upgrading and thermal management.
All of this falls into Intel's vision of the digital home. They don't want the media experience to end when you leave the living room, seeking to provide means of taking media with you on the move. Let us not forget businesses either. While the consumer laptop market is growing rapidly, there remains a greater number of business users with laptops, so Intel continues working on technologies that will benefit the digital office.
Yonah is Intel's latest mobile processor architecture, which can be either dual- or single-core. It does a few things differently to what we've seen thus far, most notably shared L2 cache. In a dual-core Yonah, both cores share a single L2 cache unit. According to Intel this reduces cache misses, because if one core is active and the other isn't, it can have free reign of the entire free cache, whereas in other architectures, the core might only have access to half of the on-die cache.
Power consumption is also a big deal with Yonah. A number of techniques have been applied, including 65nm process technology, 'dynamic power coordination' and a new enhanced deeper sleep mode.
The chipset holding Napa together is Intel's Mobile 945 Express. This includes their latest Graphics Media Accelerator, geared up for HD. Although Intel have said there's more memory bandwidth and higher clocks than in previous GMAs, Intel's mobile graphics have never been stunning, but for general usage and playing games that are not on the bleeding edge, it does its job. One benefit we've seen when comparing GMA to other mobile graphics solutions is that battery life tends to be better with GMA.
Where would Centrino be without wireless? Napa has the latest Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG adapter. This features wake on wireless LAN (which has the rather amusing acronym WoWLAN) along with 802.11e quality of service (QoS) support, plus improved resistance to interference. As with previous Intel wireless solutions, Cisco wireless security extensions are supported for businesses that support them.
The new brand
So that was what we should all know already, in which case a few of you will have skipped to this part. What's the deal today? Well, Intel officially reveals the new Centrino branding. Let's take a look.
For systems built around Intel's dual-core Yonah, we're looking at Intel Centrino Duo mobile technology, incorporating the Intel Core Duo processor. Centrino Duo features the aforementioned chipset and wireless components too, and is optimised for the dual-core processor, as you'd expect.
In the single-core corner we keep the standard Centrino name, but the processor ticking away inside will be the Intel Core Solo, nice and logical. The chipset and wireless functionality remain the same.
Any other Centrino system, i.e. those using existing components, will stick with the regular Centrino brand.
Still to come
More details on the new Duo and Solo processors will come forth as we can divulge them. According to Intel's roadmap Yonah will be making an appearance towards the beginning of 2006 and will be at the heart of the Centrino brand over the next year. So, whether you'll be going Solo or Duo, Napa has a new name.