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How-To Choose a Notebook Processor

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MattSlagle View Drop Down
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  Quote MattSlagle Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: How-To Choose a Notebook Processor
    Posted: 16 Apr 2008 at 3:48pm

How to Choose a Notebook Processor




Deciding upon the processor for a notebook is not as important as deciding a desktop processor.  Notebooks come already equipped with motherboards, and can only accept a narrow range of processors.  These ranges of processors provide the best performance matched with the rest of the system.


Terms and Technologies


Front Side Bus (FSB):  The FSB is the connection between processor and a component called the chipset.  This connection speed determines the amount of data that the processor can communicate with the motherboard.  The higher the FSB is, usually the higher the performance that can be obtained.


Hyper Transport (HT):  AMD’s solution to the aging FSB technology.  This solution allows the processor to have direct access to the memory, bypassing the chipset altogether.  This in turn allows lower latency.


Cache:  The cache is a small amount of fast memory directly inside the chip.  Multiple accesses to this memory instead of slower ram can greatly improve performance.  Many chips feature multiple levels of cache so that it can have both small and large cache memory.  The smaller cache is to provide the best read and write speeds while the larger cache is to provide better performance than reading or writing to much slower ram.


Thermal Design Power (TDP):  The TDP is the amount of power that the processor consumes at full load.  This rating is rated in Watts.  Much like a household light, the energy consumed by the chip is expelled as heat.  The higher the TDP, the hotter the notebook will run and the shorter the battery life.


Frequency:  The frequency is the speed at which the chip operates at.  Measured in GHz, the higher the rating, the faster the chip operates on instructions.  With the advent of more efficient technologies and multiple core designs, frequency is no longer an effective way of determining performance.


Die:  A die in the context of integrated circuits is a small block of semi conducting material, on which a given functional circuit is fabricated. Typically, integrated circuits are produced in large batches on a single wafer of electronic-grade silicon (EGS) through processes such as lithography. The wafer is cut into many pieces, each containing one copy of the circuit. Each of these pieces is called a die.



Overview of Intel Mobile Processors


Intel is more known for its extreme speed ratings and reliability.  With those qualities, Intel chips usually cost more than AMD chips, but provide more performance for the added cost.  Intel is also known for staying on the edge of technology line, always incorporating the newest technologies into its product line.


Core Processors (PM Microarchitecture)


The Core brand refers to Intel's 32-bit mobile dual-core x86 CPUs that derived from the Pentium M branded processors. The Core's microarchitecture was a slightly more advanced version of the Intel P6 architecture that was eventually superseded by the new Core 2 microarchitecture. It emerged in parallel with the NetBurst (Intel P68) microarchitecture of the Pentium 4 brand, and was a precursor of the 64-bit Core microarchitecture of Core 2 branded CPUs. The Core comprised two branches: the Duo (dual-core) and Solo (Duo with one disabled core, which replaced the Pentium M brand of single-core mobile processor).


Intel Core Solo


Code Names:  Yonah


The Core Solo uses the same two-core die as the Core Duo, but features only one active core. This allows Intel to sell dies that have a manufacturing defect in one but not both of the cores. Depending on demand, Intel may also simply disable one of the cores to sell the chip at the Core Solo price.  This requires less effort than launching and maintaining a separate line of CPUs that physically only have one core.


Intel Core Duo


Code Name:  Yonah


The Core Duo consists of two cores on one die, a 2 MB L2 cache shared by both cores, and an arbiter bus that controls both L2 cache and FSB access. Certain steppings of Core Duo processors will also include the ability to disable one core to conserve power.




Core 2 Processors (Core Microarchitecture)


The Core 2 brand refers to a range of Intel's consumer 64-bit dual-core and 2x2 MCM quad-core CPUs with the x86-64 instruction set, based on the Intel Core microarchitecture, derived from the 32-bit dual-core Yonah notebook processor.


Merom, the first mobile version of the Core 2, was officially released on July 27, 2006 but quietly began shipping to PC manufacturers in mid-July alongside Conroe. Merom became Intel's premier line of mobile processors, with mostly the same features of Conroe, but with more emphasis on low power consumption to enhance notebook battery life.


Intel's new 45nm Penryn-based Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors were released on January 6, 2008. The new processors launch exclusively within a 35W thermal envelope. The T9500 offers a 2.6 GHz clock speed, faster than all but the Extreme Edition of the Merom range, and 6 MiB (rather than 4 MiB) of Level 2 Cache.


Intel Core 2 Solo


Code Names:  Merom, Penryn


Designed to be ultra-low power processors, these processors are specifically built to only have one core.  Unlike the previous Core Solo, these processors are not defective or detuned versions of the mobile Core 2 Duo.


Intel Core 2 Duo


Code Names:  Merom, Penryn


These processors provide the best efficiency to power ratio of all the Intel based mobile processors.  Merom-based Core 2 Duo provides 20% more performance yet maintains the same battery life as the Yonah-based Core Duo.


Intel Core 2 Quad


Code Names:  Penryn


Although Core 2 Quad based notebooks do exist, they do not use a specifically designed processor.  These processors are designed for lower-power usage, yet provide the same performance as their desktop counterparts.  They will be available later in 2008.


Overview of AMD Mobile Processors


AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) is more known for its lower cost and efficient processor design.  It is usually stated that AMD chips at the same rated speed of an Intel chip will usually perform better.  AMD usually is slower to adapt to newer technologies as these newer technologies usually drive up the price of the processors.


Turion 64 (K8L Microarchitecture)


Turion 64 is the brand name AMD applies to its 64-bit low-power (mobile) processors codenamed K8L.  The Turion 64 and Turion 64 X2 processors compete with Intel's mobile processors, initially the Pentium M and currently the Intel Core and Intel Core 2 processors.


AMD Turion 64


Code Names:  Lancaster, Richmond


Turion 64 is a 64-bit low-power (mobile) processors codenamed K8L.

Earlier Turion 64 processors are compatible with AMD's Socket 754. The newer "Richmond" models are designed for AMD's Socket S1. They are equipped with 512 or 1024 KiB of L2 cache, a 64-bit single channel on-die memory controller, and an 800 MHz HyperTransport bus. Battery saving features, like PowerNow!, are central to the marketing and usefulness of these CPUs.



AMD Turion 64 X2


Code Names:  Taylor, Trinidad, Tyler


Turion 64 X2 is 64-bit, intended to compete with Intel's Core and Core 2. These processors use Socket S1, and feature DDR2 memory.

AMD first produced the Turion 64 X2 on IBM's 90 nm Silicon on insulator (SOI) process. As of May 2007, they have switched to a 65 nm Silicon-Germanium stressed process. The earlier 90 nm devices were codenamed Taylor and Trinidad, while the newer 65 nm cores have codename Tyler.


AMD Turion Ultra


Code Names:  Griffin


The Turion Ultra is the first processor family from AMD solely for the mobile platform, based on the Athlon 64 (K8) architecture with some specific architectural enhancements similar to upcoming Opteron processors aimed at lower power consumption and longer battery life.


Due out Q2 2008

Edited by MattSlagle - 20 May 2008 at 12:38pm
Matt Slagle
AVADirect Research and Developement
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