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'Merom'

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Every few months computer technology moves forward. Usually it’s only a small jump, such as a latest iteration of a graphics architecture, but sometimes it’s a significant one, such as the recent introduction of Intel’s Core 2 Duo desktop processor, known internally by Intel as Conroe.

Conroe’s arrival was very important as it represented the first time that Intel had brought the fruits of its new ‘Performance per Watt’ architecture direction to the desktop. Intel has been moving in this direction for some time, ever since it realised that even as its ‘NetBurst’ Pentium 4 architecture was running out of steam, its Pentium M ‘Banias’ mobile chip was going great guns.
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As such it turned to the Banias design team, based in Haifa, Israel, to create an architecture that was efficient and able to scale, qualities that Pentium 4 did not possess. Last year, I was lucky enough to be taken on a press tour of Intel in Israel, and met some of the team responsible for Banias, Dothan and Yonah. It was clear then that all of these were leading up to the processor released today, known then only as Merom. Though it was the last to appear on the market, Merom is actually the processor on which its desktop and workstation counterparts, Conroe (Core 2 Duo) and Woodcrest (Xeon) are based.

This design architecture, which Spode talked about here is known as the Core architecture. Rather confusingly though, Core Duo, which is Yonah, is not actually Core architecture – it’s was essentially a dual-core version of Pentium M.
Core architecture, with its various improvements and enhancements, actually begins with the Core 2 Duo, which in Conroe guise, has already appeared on the desktop.

The reason for this is that Intel previous mobile chip, Yonah or Core Duo was so good that it didn’t need to rush it to market. However, Intel definitely needed to bring Conroe to the market as for a long time been lagging behind AMD.
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So how does the mobile version of Core 2 Duo (Merom) actually differ from the desktop version (Conroe)? Actually, the differences are relatively minor – though as it’s essentially the same chip that’s not really surprising. This means that it sports all the excellent features that made Conroe so powerful. This includes the Wide Dynamic Execution consisting of an increase in pipelines from three to four and the use of the Macro-Fusion technique that combines common pairs of instructions into a single instruction. Perhaps most crucially Merom employs all of the power management saving tricks that the Core architecture is designed for, such as putting many parts of the CPU to sleep when they’re not required. This enables it to have a lower Thermal Design Power (TDP) figure of 34W, compared to 65W for Conroe, which is the essential figure for a mobile CPU. Other differences are that Merom runs at a lower Front Side Bus of 667MHz, (versus 1,066MHz).

If you’re looking for some more in-depth explanations of the Core micro architecture then you’d do well to head over to this article on our sister site Bit-Tech, which describes the desktop Core 2 Duo in detail.

The Front Side Bus speeds is of particular interest as it’s the same as the current Core Duo chips. The new chip also uses the same Socket 479 interface, which means that it’s a drop in replacement for the old Core Duo, so you could, in theory upgrade an older notebook with the newer chip.

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