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Intel’s Mobile Core i5 And Core i3: Arrandale Is For The Rest Of Us


Don’t you hate it when you’re on a plane, three-quarters of the way through your favorite movie, when the notebook you’re watching on runs out of juice? It takes a miserly mobile platform to last an entire feature film and continue computing on after it’s over, and those are fairly few and far between.

The first Arrandale-based notebook to land in our lab is armed with a full complement of media-oriented functionality, but I'll spoil the suspense and come right out with the fact that it can’t quite finish a Blu-ray movie.

That’s not to say the Asus K42F isn’t a winner when it comes to longevity. We made it 120 minutes through Transformers on Blu-ray before the unit’s 63Wh battery gave out. More impressive, the K42F played back 300 in its entirely (on DVD) and still had 44% of its battery left.

In comparison, back in October, we gave you a look at Intel’s Mobile Core i7-920XM—the first Nehalem-based processor to tackle the desktop replacement notebook market, not counting the Bloomfield-based behemoths we've seen. With a 55W TDP, though, and paired up to a discrete graphics adapter, we were actually somewhat disappointed with the system’s power consumption, even if it did deliver superior performance versus previous-generation Montevina-based machines. That machine only made it through the first 44 minutes of 300.

But Intel’s Clarksfield-based processor was never meant to be the shining star in the company’s Calpella mobile platform. And ever since our desktop replacement preview, we’ve been anxiously awaiting Arrandale, the processor that’d power notebooks for the rest of us: from medium-sized designs to thin-and-lights and ultra-portables. Finishing our DVD movie with almost half of its battery left was quite a feat for Asus' first Arrandale offering. What else can the little 14" notebook do well?

A Platform Built To Dominate

Of course, Arrandale is the mobile equivalent of Clarkdale, which we detail in Intel Core i5-661: Clarkdale Rings The Death Knell Of Core 2. It leverages the same 32nm high-k / metal gate manufacturing process, which helps pull down the power consumption of these new chips to 35W, 25W, and 18W, depending on the model you choose.

“But wait,” you say. “Isn’t that the same as most of Intel’s 45nm Core 2 Duo standard-voltage and medium-voltage chips? Where’s the improvement?”

That's the BGA version of Arrandale with its SFF platform controller hub

Like Clarkdale, Arrandale includes two die on a single package—the 32nm silicon consists of the dual-core, Hyper-Threading-equipped processor, while the 45nm die includes graphics, memory control, and PCI Express. Integrating all of that functionality into the CPU negates the need for a traditional northbridge. So, again, we’re presented with a two-chip platform, akin to Lynnfield/P55 and Clarkdale/H55/H57. Axing the middle chip—the GM45 graphics and memory controller hub, in the Montevina platform—eliminates a component that uses up to 12W. So, while Arrandale itself doesn’t represent a huge power savings, the platform it enables has the potential to both outperform and outlast any comparably-equipped notebook today.

Complementing the new processors is a host of chipsets and Centrino-branded wireless modules. Moreover, we have one of the first examples of Arrandale in action here in our lab. Today we’ll be taking Asus’ new K42F notebook for a spin and comparing it against an HP notebook configured as similarly as possible.