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Merom & Santa Rosa

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As is usually the case at IDF, Sean Maloney had some interesting things to say about the world of mobility. As Executive Vice President and General Manager of Intel Corporation's Mobility Group, Maloney heads up one of the most interesting arms of this technology mega-corporation. Mobility is, without a doubt the most exciting part of the computing sector right now, and Maloney is, as always, right in the thick of it.

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Intel’s Core Duo chip has redefined mobile computing, bringing unprecedented performance without a hike in power draw. Although dual-core processors had been on the cards for a while, and Intel had already launched its dual-core desktop parts, the Core Duo brought something very new with it – Smart Cache. Whereas traditional dual-core processors applied a separate Level 2 cache to each core, Smart Cache institutes a single cache pool and allows each core to take as much or as little as it needs. This means that if only one core is being utilised it can grab as much of the 2MB of Level 2 cache as it needs. Also, if both cores require the same piece of data from the cache, it doesn't have to be repeated, as it would in a twin cache system.

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Now Merom is building on the strong base of Yonah and adding a whole host of new goodies. First up, the Level 2 cache has been boosted from the 2MB seen on Yonah, to 4MB. Now, that’s a massive amount of cache for any CPU, let alone a mobile chip. As well as the massive helping of cache, Merom will also bring 64-bit computing to Intel’s mobile platform – EM64T in an Intel notebook, now we just need applications to make use of it.

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Although Merom will drop quite happily into the current Napa platform, Intel has a whole new platform waiting in the wings, a platform called Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa should hit the streets in early 2007, just like Napa appeared at the beginning of 2006 and Sonoma hit the streets in early 2005. Santa Rosa will not just be a vehicle for Merom, it will bring with it some great new features. Intel will be unleashing it’s new graphics chipset with Santa Rosa – how well it performs remains to be seen, but it’s good to see that Intel is continuing to push its graphics technology.

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Santa Rosa will also be the host for Intel’s 802.11n WiFi adapter, codenamed Kedron – 802.11n has been a long time coming, so it’s good to see Intel committing to it for its next mobile platform. 802.11n brings with it MIMO capability for intelligent signal routing and extended range. Another exciting feature in Santa Rosa is Intel’s new Robson module, which uses NAND technology to increase I/O performance. Maloney gave a demonstration of a Santa Rosa notebook compared to a current Napa machine – not only did the Santa Rosa machine boot up in around half the time, it also managed to launch a string of applications and run a series of scripts around five times faster than the Napa machine. Considering that I regularly have to work solely on a notebook (like right now in fact), Santa Rosa just can’t come fast enough!

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