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The last-generation Centrino 2 platform was referred to as Montevina. The generation before that was called Santa Rosa. This generation’s platform is called Calpella—a name encompassing the processor, wireless capabilities, and chipset used to build notebooks based on existing Clarksfield CPUs and upcoming Arrandales.
We already know about the processors in play, so let’s talk a bit more about the several chipsets planned for Intel’s 5-Series Express (Ibex Peak) family.
The base model, PM55, is derived from the desktop P55 you already know from our Core i5/Core i5 Lynnfield introduction. Designed to be paired with discrete graphics, it really is the foundation on which upcoming Calpella platforms will build. As a recap, it features eight of its own PCI Express 2.0 lanes, six SATA 3 Gb/s ports, Intel HD Audio, access to as many as 14 USB 2.0 ports, and Intel’s 2MB Ignition firmware (more on firmware in just a bit).
From there, we’ll see the HM55, HM57, QS57, and QM57 chipsets emerge in 2010, all with significantly more functionality than PM55.
|Mobile Intel 5-Series Express Chipset Family (Ibex Peak)|
Remote PC Assist for Business
|RPAT for Consumer|
|Audio Standard (HDMI)||HD Audio||HD Audio||HD Audio||HD Audio||-|
|Dual-Display Output||Concurrent / Simultaneous||-|
|Rapid Storage Technology AHCI Driver||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Rapid Storage Technology + RAID||Yes||Yes||Yes||-||-|
|FIS-Based Port Multiplier||Yes||Yes||Yes||-||-|
|Chipset-Based PCI Express||8||8||8||6||8|
|Integrated LAN MAC||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Noticeably missing from the list is PM57—mobile cousin of the P57 chipset once scheduled for the desktop. Due to a lack of customer demand and the desire for a simpler product stack (five mobile chipsets is already a lot), PM57 has been canceled. The HM57 will offer a similar feature set with addition of switchable or discrete graphics. And just to confirm what we’ve been suggesting for the past few months, Braidwood—the motherboard-down NAND flash technology expected to serve up SSD-like performance—has been removed from all 5-series platforms due to “quality issues that kept the technology from achieving beta status,” according to Intel.
The HM55 and HM57 will emerge alongside the 32nm Arrandale processors in early 2010, adding a number of notable capabilities.
The HM55 includes Intel Anti-Theft technology, HD Audio with HDMI output, HDCP compliance, a Protected Audio Video Path (say hello to bitstreaming Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HS Master Audio), and dual-display outputs. It actually steps back from PM55 by only offering 12 USB 2.0 ports, four SATA connectors, and six PCI Express 2.0 links. However, the HM55 does feature a more complex 4MB Firmware 6.0.
HM57 sports many of the same capabilities as HM55, but steps SATA, USB, and PCIe connectivity back to 6, 14, and 8, respectively. Also included is support for Frame Information Structure (FIS)-based port multipliers—the more advanced of the two port multiplier technologies. In contrast, Intel’s ICH10 is limited to command-based switching. Intel Rapid Storage Technology will be enabled on HM57 as well.
QS57 and QM57 are both very similar to HM57. The two principal differences are a minimum 8MB Firmware 6.0, needed to enable Intel’s business/consumer manageability packages, plus the Anti-Theft and PAVP 1.5 capabilities from the 4MB firmware. Also, the QS57 is a distinctly different chipset component, measuring 22x20mm (rather than 25x27mm) and maxing out at 3.2W (instead of 3.5W). Both of these chipsets will be business fare—less likely to show up in consumer-oriented notebooks.
Differentiating Through Firmware
You’ll notice that firmware plays a big part in differentiating Intel’s five 5-series mobile chipsets—reasonable when you consider that processor-based integration has made it much more difficult to set one chipset apart from another.
The entry-level Ignition Firmware (2MB) deployed in conjunction with the PM55-based notebooks today is used to simply boot the platform. There are no value-added manageability services enabled; it’s a basic BIOS.
A step up, the Intel Management Engine Firmware 6.0 (4MB) will only be found on HM55- and HM57-based notebooks beginning in January of next year, and it’ll work in conjunction with Arrandale’s on-package graphics processor to enable protected audio and video paths for Blu-ray playback. Obviously, that’s not necessary with today’s PM55 chipset since it’s designed to work with discrete GPUs. The larger firmware also introduces Anti-Theft technology, a capability enabled through a solution like Absolute Software’s Computrace, which lets an IT admin “poison” a notebook once it has been flagged stolen and then goes online. The feature is less anti-theft (notebooks remain just as easy to steal) and more an anti-sensitive data loss mechanism. This was available through last-generation’s GM45, but is not a component of the modern PM55 platform.
The highest-end firmware solution is the Intel Management Engine Firmware 6.0 (8MB), which can be packaged for either businesses or consumers. On the business side, the 8MB firmware includes everything from the 2MB and 4MB versions, plus the technologies needed to enable vPro: Active Management 6.0 (AMT 6.0) and Remote PC Assist technology (RPAT). The consumer side gets Identity Protection technology and a more mainstream version of RPAT. Intel hasn’t said much about mixing HM57 and the 8MB firmware for a super-manageable consumer solution though, so we have to imagine HM55 will be the most popular platform for building notebooks on Intel’s 32nm mobile processors.