Intel's latest processors: What you need to know

Extreme yesterday, mainstream today. That was the key message Philip Cronin, Intel's general manager for Australia and New Zealand, emphasised during the local launch of the company's new 2010 Core family processors.

With processing power ramping up every year, what was once considered the domain of high-end desktops — such as HD video encoding and overclocking — will soon become common activities for the layman. With the explosion of online social networking, consumers need the extra oomph to convert their high-resolution images or HD movies into a web-friendly size for sharing.

As such, the new range of Intel's 2010 mobile processors (code-named Arrandale) offers a host of new advances which set them apart from the previous-generation Core 2 Duo/Solo chips. But do you really need to rush out and replace your current system which is barely a year old? Let's find out.

How will I know if I'm getting the latest Intel processors?

Let's start with something simple. The 2010 Intel chips have been given new names. The budget series consists of Core i3 models, while the mid-range processors fall into the Core i5 range. The high-end Core i7 (which was launched last year) targets gamers, enthusiasts and power users.

For ultrathins and ultraportables, there is also a range of low-voltage Core i7 chips with the LM suffix (ie, Core i7-620LM) and ultra-low-voltage Core i7 and i5 editions with the UM suffix. Check out the chart below for the full range of mobile processors.

Processor class Model Category CPU speed (GHz) Maximum overclock speed (GHz) GPU speed (MHz)

Core i7 series
Core i7-620M Desktop replacement/gaming
Core i7-640LM Ultrathins
Core i7-620LM
Core i7-640UM Ultraportables
Core i7-620UM

Core i5
Core i5-540M Mid-size machines
Core i5-520M
Core i5-430M
Core i5-520UM Ultrathins

Core i3
Core i3-350M Budget laptops
Core i3-330M

I'm confused? What's with the overclock speed and GPU columns? Isn't this just a faster processor?

Oops. We just skipped a step. These new fields are indicative of the new features that the 2010 Core processors possess. We'll give the boring technical bits a pass and focus on the ones which make a real difference to your computing experience.

Intel Turbo Boost While this was once the domain of mad scientist enthusiasts, overclocking has now become an integral part of the new CPU design. When the processor experiences high computing loads, the chip will automatically overclock beyond its rated speed to boost performance. This also kicks in when running an intensive single-threaded application, in which case one core is overclocked and the other shut down to preserve power. This feature is not available in the Core i3 series.
Intel Hyper-Threading

Running multiple processing threads was a stop-gap measure during the single-core era, but left the scene when multi-core chips became commonplace. Intel has reintroduced this technology to its new range and now all 2010 Core series can process up to four data streams simultaneously.

Graphics processor integrated into the CPU package

While AMD Fusion pioneered the concept of integrating a graphics processing core into the CPU, Intel can claim honours for being the first to hit the market. Though, technically, the GPU does not sit right next to the processing cores, it's on the same processing package and the close proximity allows for quicker data transfer and lower power consumption. A little like locating all your suppliers in the same industrial park instead of spreading them across the country.

Isn't overclocking dangerous and possibly damaging to your system?

That's true if you are talking about traditional overclocking which needs specialised equipment such as water/liquid nitrogen cooling systems, a deep wallet and utter disregard for the safety of your PC. This allows the modder to add more current to the CPU and, in the process, gain speed but generate tremendous amounts of heat above the rated TDP (thermal design point) of the chip.

However, what Intel does is to keep the overclocked speed well within the TDP of the chip, which prevents overheating and potential damage to your system. Moreover, the speed boost is automated and scalable depending on the task at hand. So despite its scary reputation, your investment is safe.

Wow! Sounds like I should ditch my three-month-old Core 2 Duo crap and buy the new ones!

Hold up just a minute there, Bub. Unless your last name happens to be Hilton or Trump, in which case we would like to know you better personally, remember that there is nothing the spanking new Core series chips can do that your current Core 2 Duo machines can't, albeit at a slower speed. Unless you really need better battery life and faster performance right now, you may want to wait for your current laptop to fail before replacing it. It's your money after all.

This, of course, does not apply to gamers and those in the multimedia industry where FPS (frame rates per second) and shorter encoding times mean a world of difference. So for this group, the new chips provide enough of a performance difference to warrant a new investment.

Asus M60J

Asus M60J (Credit: Asus)

Which are the new machines sporting Intel's latest offerings?

Vendors such as Dell and Acer have started refreshing almost their entire line with the latest chips. Many manufacturers, however, already have at least a model or two with the new Intel processors in the market. CNET Australia has looked at the Core i7 Asus M60J, and there will be many more to come shortly.

Via CNET Asia with Australian editing by Pam Carroll.

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edhai18 posted a comment   

Dual core is simply a generic term referring to any processor package with two physical CPUs in one. The Pentium D, Core Duo, Core 2 Duo and Athlon X2 are all current CPUs that have dual cores in one package.

The Core 2 Duo is Intel's second generation (hence, Core 2) processor made for desktops and laptops designed from the ground up to be fast while not consuming nearly as much power as previous CPUs
-- thats the difference :)


sam posted a comment   



jjj posted a comment   

can somebody tell the difference between core2duo and dual core


jjjj posted a comment   

this is awesome


blaah posted a comment   
New Zealand

it would be nice to add coverage to include the core Ix quad core chips.

I think they destroyed the nomenclature in that it is far more confusing now than it was before.

and to anthony404vy, i think WiDi is compatible only with intel's next generation wi-fi chipsets, its not to do with the processor.


Storman posted a comment   

any news on the i series being in MBP's? the news on the net is at least a year old and no talk about it coming to MBP's....only talk coming from forums/news is tablet! tablet!...would the 27th event also include a refresh of the line? :D


anthony404vy posted a comment   

wait you said that there is nothing that the core I series can do that the core 2 duo can't do but didn't intel say at CES that the core I series can do wireless display but core 2 duo can't ?

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