Like a proud parent on a trip, Intel is boasting about its many-sided family as its Intel Developers Forum opens Tuesday in Beijing, China. The boasts, according to the Santa Clara, California-based chipmaker, includes more than 20 new products and innovations.
On Monday, Intel painted some new features in the Penryn family portrait, and most of them are muscles. The chipmaker said that the new processors will enable desktop PCs to run as much as 40 percent faster for gaming than the latest Intel Core 2 Extreme. And, for tasks requiring lots of processing bandwidth, Intel said to expect a 45 percent boost with Penryn over today's Xeon. Penryn is expected to be released in the second half of 2007.
According to Sean Maloney, Intel executive vice president, the improved performance is the result of the chip being shrunk to 45 nm from the existing 60 nm, and because of high-k metal gate transistors. Maloney called the new transistors the biggest breakthrough in microchip technology in 40 years.
Intel also unveiled its CE 2110 Media Processor, a complete system on a chip that contains a 1-GHz processing core, powerful audio/video processing and graphics, and I/O components. It is designed for the consumer electronics market, to power what the company called "a new generation of devices, such as digital set top boxes and networked media players."
Intel's new line of Xeon 7300 server chips, named "Caneland," will include quad-core and dual-chips in 80- and 50-watt versions and will be released in Q3 of next year. It is probably not coincidence that archrival AMD will deliver its much-await "Barcelona" Opteron server chip in the middle of next year.
The big news so far out of China, noted Gartner analyst Mark Margevicius, is that Intel is "completely embracing X86 across its entire product line."
"They're shrinking the size, adding cache, adding multiple cores," he said, "and they're taking advantage of the same X86 instruction set across platforms." He said that Intel used to have separate design teams for servers, desktops, and mobile chips, but that they are now all working from the same design perspective.
Margevicius said that Intel's self-proclaimed "tick-tock" model -- with a performance boost one year and a new chip design the next -- can't be maintained without this kind of design perspective.
The other big news coming out of China, he said, is the system-on-chip design, which he called a "huge announcement." It means that "we're now going to get X86 architecture at price points not possible before." The big impact, he said, will be in small mobile devices, where X86 isn't used. It will be "X86 everywhere," he predicted, with Intel having a much greater presence in mobile within five or six years.
He noted that, while AMD also relies on the X86 architecture across its products, he wasn't sure AMD could keep up with Intel because AMD doesn't have "the breadth of products or of engineers." As one example, he noted that AMD is just launching its 45-nm processor in the middle of next year, while Intel's Penryn is coming out later this year.
The Intel Developers Forum in China, the first to be held in that country, follows Intel's announcement in March that it will build a $2.5 billion chip fabrication plant in Dalian.