Intel's dual-core notebook chip knows how to share

Fresh off introducing its dual-core desktop chips, Intel revealed a few details about its upcoming dual-core mobile processor.

Intel shed a little more light on its forthcoming dual-core mobile chip Thursday in a briefing with reporters, confirming that the Yonah processor's two cores will share a single bank of cache memory.

Yonah is the dual-core version of Intel's Pentium M processor for notebooks and miniature desktops, scheduled for release in the first quarter of next year. Unlike Intel's first dual-core designs for desktop PCs, Yonah is a much more integrated design that shares storage and power management resources within the chip, said Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager of Intel's mobile platforms group.

The just-released dual-core Pentium D processor uses separate 1M-byte cache memory banks dedicated to each core. In the Yonah processor, a single 2M-byte cache memory bank is available to both cores, reducing the chance that data will have to leave the chip to be temporarily stored in a system's main memory bank, Eden said.

Cache memory is used to store frequently accessed bits of data in a repository close to the CPU (central processing unit). Data stored in cache memory can be accessed much faster than data stored in a PC's memory, because the CPU doesn't have to exit the processor to find that data.

In Yonah, each processor core has access to the full 2M bytes of cache. This means that one core can store a piece of data in the cache that might be needed later by the other core, and the other core can access that data without having to leave the chip, Eden said. The larger amount of storage allows Yonah's cores to spend less time navigating through Intel's front-side bus and more time executing instructions, which will dramatically improve performance, he said.

The shared cache design also allows Intel to eliminate some of the disadvantages of its front-side bus design, which many analysts see as a bottleneck in the dual-core era. The front-side bus is the connection between the processor and the memory bank via a chipset. On Intel's chips, this interface is located on the chipset, farther away from the CPU. But on rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD's) chips, the memory controller is on the same chip as the CPU, where it can access data from the memory much faster than can a front-side bus.

Intel plans eventually to move to a similar design, but in the meantime it has been raising the speed at which its buses move data in order to cope with the increased activity of two processor cores. Yonah's two cores will share a single front-side bus running at 667MHz, an improvement in frequency over the 533MHz bus used by the current generation of Pentium M processors, Eden said.

Yonah will also use sophisticated power management techniques to make sure that each core is only drawing as much power as it needs to process its instructions, Eden said. The processor can monitor the application activity passing through each core and allocate power as needed between the cores, reducing power consumption during idle moments, he said.

As a result, the battery life of notebooks with the Yonah and the rest of the Napa platform should exceed that of the current generation of Intel's Centrino technology, Eden said. Napa is the code name for the combination of Yonah, a new mobile chipset, and a new wireless chip that makes up the Centrino brand.

Intel plans to aggressively introduce dual-core processors over the next year. The company was forced to accelerate its dual-core processors after realizing that it could no longer wring any more performance out of single-core Pentium 4 chips without melting motherboards. Processor analysts and chip enthusiasts have turned their noses up at Intel's initial Pentium D design, labeling it inelegant compared to AMD's dual-core chips.

The difference between the dual-core Pentium D processor and Yonah is also quite stark, Eden said in response to a reporter's question.

"You are asking me what is the difference between a microprocessor and a donkey," he said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Krazit

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?