CES - Intel adds 16 new 45nm chips to Penryn line

First Penryn mobile processors seen as another blow to struggling rival AMD

Intel Monday unveiled 16 new 45 nanometer processors, including the first 45nm chip for Intel Centrino-based laptops.

Industry analysts said they knew Intel would be pushing out Penryn chips for laptops at this week's International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, they just didn't expect this many all at once.

And with Intel pushing out so many new 45nm chips, the company isn't giving rival Advanced Micro Devices any breathing room to improve its flagging business. Intel's on-time delivery of Penryn makes AMD's struggle to get its long-delayed Barcelona chips out the door even more pronounced. And every time Intel unveils a 45nm chip, it's a reminder to users that AMD isn't scheduled to move to 45nm until later this year.

"It's impressive," said Dan Olds, a principal analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group. "It's impressive that Intel continues to execute as they've been executing, bringing things out when they say they will and pushing the performance bar in mobile, desktop and server. That is definitely going to give them performance leadership in laptop processors, in terms of raw performance and also in terms of controlling power usage and heat."

All of the new chips are based on Intel's new 45nm technology as well as its new transistor formula. Of the 16 new processors being announced Monday, five are for laptops and seven are for desktops, while four are designed for servers, according to Intel.

All together, the Penryn family now includes 32 desktop, laptop and server processors.

The company released its first 45nm chip for the desktop, also part of the new Penryn line, last November. That release included the desktop chip and 15 server dual-core and quad-core 45nm Hi-k Intel Xeon processors.

Dean Freeman, an analyst at Gartner, said the new Penryn laptop chips should give users a boost, especially with the new video and graphics capabilities.

"It's the next step in our evolutionary slog," said Freeman. "When you bounce out to YouTube or you watch a movie, it's going to respond faster and hopefully it will be a better watching experience than you have now. With improved graphics, it will be brighter and more clear. It's going to be a very fast, a very nice machine when they start to come out."

Will that be enough for corporate IT buyers to toss aside their current machines and buy the new Centrino line or the new desktops?

No, not really, according to both Freeman and Olds.

The analysts said the new capabilities should whet the appetites of IT managers for the release of Intel's Nehalem processors later this year. The 45nm Nehalem chips will include an integrated memory controller, eliminating the need for a front-side bus, they noted.

"Toward the end of this year when Nehalem hits, now that will be exciting," said Jim McGregor, an analyst at In-Stat. "That chip will nullify any architectural advantages that AMD still had."

McGregor said Monday's announcements are just more propulsion for Intel's momentum, and that means AMD needs to put its shoulder behind its Barcelona and Phenom chips and get them into the market. The longer AMD waits, the further and further Intel advances beyond them.

"AMD has definitely dug a hole for themselves," he added. "It looks like they'll be behind the eight ball for the next two years. If they come out with Barcelona and Phenom this quarter, it will help, but with Intel coming out with Nehalem at the end of this year, that hurts. They need to get on the ball and get some new solutions out there."

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