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Intel announces more power-efficient chips

Intel Corp. said Tuesday it is combining its desktop and notebook microprocessor architectures, as the world's largest chipmaker focuses on boosting the power efficiency of its chips.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Intel Corp. showed off three microprocessors Tuesday based on a next-generation technology that tries to maximize performance and power efficiency while minimizing electricity bills.

The new chips, expected to become available in the second half of 2006, are partly based on the design in the Pentium M — the processor component of the company’s popular Centrino technology for notebook computers. It also will share some features with the Pentium 4 underlying architecture.

“We’re combining the best of these two architectures into one,” said Paul Otellini, Intel’s chief executive.

During a speech at the Intel Developer Forum, Otellini demonstrated notebooks, desktop PCs and servers running the chips, code-named Merom, Conroe and Woodcrest. Like Intel’s current Pentium D today, each will have two computing engines, or cores, on a single chip.

Intel and the rest of the industry have been focusing less on raw speed and more on efficiency recently. After years of ratcheting up clock speed of a single core for better performance, newer chips divide the workload between two cores but run at a lower speed.

As a result, performance has continued to improve while power requirements have been held mostly in check.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. released its first dual-core processors at about the same time as Intel, though AMD chips generally perform better than Intel’s offerings. AMD ran newspaper ads Tuesday challenging Intel to a “dual core duel.”

IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. beat both Intel and AMD to the dual-core party with chips used mainly in servers and workstations. IBM also developed a processor called Cell that consists of eight “synergistic” processors built around a computing core based on IBM’s Power architecture. Cell is due to be used in several computing applications, including Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 3 video game system expected next year.

Multi-core technology will enable a range of smaller yet more powerful devices. Otellini showed off a prototype handheld computer — dubbed a “handtop” — that has a 5-inch display, weighs a pound and can run off a battery for a full day.

Unlike today’s handhelds, the wireless-enabled device can run a full-powered PC operating system. Otellini said computer makers could offer such gadgets in the first half of 2006.

Otellini also said Intel has 10 projects in the works that contain four or more computing cores per chip. And it’s developing a new chip line that consumes a fraction of the electricity of today’s lowest-powered chips but with greater performance.

“This will create new opportunities when you think of this kind of performance in that kind of power envelope,” he said.