Core 2 Duo to hit 3 GHz, introduce FSB1333 in Q3 '07


Chicago (IL) - Last week, we had a closer look at AMD's plans how to close the gap to Intel with near- and mid-term products. This week, we will focus on Intel's new products for 2007 as well as the remainder of this year. Intel is in a very comfortable position as it can wait and see: Quad-cores on the high-end, faster dual-cores in the mainstream, coupled with a new chipset, dominate the 2007 roadmap.

Intel's Core 2 Duo processor appears to develop into the success Intel - and many consumers - have been hoping for. It carries all the right ingredients for a fairytale story- besides the much touted power efficiency and even pure performance capability, the processor is also quite affordable, with all major system builders offering Core 2 Duo machines well under $1000.

However, there is still a huge Pentium D 900 supply, which will represent a major portion of Intel processors during this Christmas season. At least if you prefer to shop for your new PC at stores such as Best Buy, the number of Core 2 Duo PCs may remain limited and focus on lower end CPU models with 2 MB L2 cache (E6300 and E6400.) Core 2 Duo processors currently make up a little over 20% of Intel's total desktop processor output, while Pentium D 800/900 still account for more than 40%. By June of next year, Core 2 Duos/Quads will have reached 50% and Intel will have decreased the production of its Pentium D to about 22% of its mix, indicating that the Core 2 Duo will live through its prime time in the second half of 2007.

The fact that AMD has a long way to catch up, will give Intel an opportunity to watch the market, to enjoy the current situation and develop future products, including 45 nm processors that are scheduled to launch as early as Q4 2007, in the backhand, without the need of rushing them out of the lab. Let's have a closer look at the roadmap:

Consumer systems

If you have shopped for a PC lately then you may have noticed that most PCs today come with Microsoft's Media Center Edition OS. Expect that trend to continue and expect to see more Viiv logos on Intel-based consumer PCs. There will be four distinct categories of such systems: The value segment will continue to use Pentium 4 and Celeron D processors, which, however, will be replaced with Core-based single-core processors (E1000 series) in the third quarter of next year. The mainstream segment will span in H1 2007 from the performance-oriented "Bridgecreek" platform with Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors to power-saving Napa systems with mobile Core 2 Duo (T5000/7000) CPUs. Napa will be updated with the "Santa Rosa" platform, while performance systems will receive the "Salt Creek" platform.

Salt Creek is especially noteworthy, as it will include "Intel 3 Series" chipsets, which will include the X38 (due in Q3 2007) on the high-end, as well as the P35 (Q2 2007) in the mainstream and G35 (Q3 2007) and G33 (Q2 2007) in the entry-level segment. All 3-Series chipsets will be based on the ICH9 southbridge and offer a slightly varying feature set. Targeted at dual-core and quad-core enthusiast computers, the X38 chipset will offer dual x16 graphics support, introduce PCI Express 2.0 capability, DDR3-1333 memory support and bring FSB1333 to the desktop. G35 will aim at entertainment PCs, support Clear Video technology, DirectX10, native HDCP integration to deal with high definition DRM, and run DDR3 1066, or DDR2 800 memory devices. P35 and G33 will also support DDR 3 memory and use integrated graphics solutions.

The ICH9 southbridge will also serve as initial platform for Intel's first 45 nm processor generation, which will be based on the mobile "Penryn" CPU that is scheduled to be launched in the second quarter of 2008. ICH9 will continue the legacy removal that has begun with the current ICH8 version: PATA support will be disappearing from the mobile version; there will be added USB support (12 ports) and a reduced power consumption of less than 3.5 watt.