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COMPUTER PROCESSORS

Core Concepts
By: Dan Wellman
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    2006-06-13

    Table of Contents:
  • Core Concepts
  • Woodcrest and Conroe
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    Core Concepts


    (Page 1 of 4 )

    You have probably heard about Intel's new Core processors. Core is actually a name for the chip's architecture. What is it, and what does it mean for the performance of your next computer? Dan Wellman takes a look.

    Core architecture is a replacement for Intel's current NetBurst microarchitecture, which has been in use across desktop, mobile and server platforms since its release in the Pentium 4 range of processors.  Core is also Intel's new trademark brand name, the result of a major re-branding effort that began in early 2006 with the release of Core Duo, also known as Yonah.  Pentium, which has served Intel through successive x86 processor generations since the original Pentium in 1993, will no longer feature on any Intel logos or branding. 

    Yonah, as you should well know by now, is a dual-core chip designed for notebook computers, although a cheaper single-core version will also be available.  While Yonah isn't the first microprocessor that features multi-core on a single die (this was the POWER4 chip produced by IBM in 2001), it is the first chip made using the new 65 nanometer process, with its closet rival AMD being almost a year behind in adapting to this technology. Yonah was Intel's first multicore processor that featured both cores on a single die. The Pentium D processor is also a multicore processor, but each of its two Pentium 4 Prescott cores was on its own die. 

    Yonah contains around about 151 million transistors, which are etched onto the photoresistive coating of the silicon wafer using a high intensity UV light source.  The wavelength of the light source used determines the size of the transistors manufacturers are able to produce, thus determining the number of transistors they are able to cram onto a processor of a given size, with the shortest wavelengths producing the smallest transistors and therefore the greatest number of transistors.  65nm is the shortest wavelength in use today.

    Added benefits to using 65nm wavelengths are that the chips it produces consume much less power and dissipate much less heat. Yonah chips for example use less than 25 watts of energy, which for a dual core chip is pretty low. This is much lower than the single-core Pentium M processors that are commonplace today, but Intel has said that in U class or ultralow variants, consumption will average as low as 1-2 watts.  Low power consumption also has the added bonus of low heat output, which makes cooling the device easier and quieter.

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