Intel launches next-generation laptop, desktop chips

Intel's latest Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 double the system and graphics performance of earlier chips

Intel on Thursday officially released its next-generation chips, which should improve the system performance and battery life of laptops.

For the past year, the chip maker has talked about the chips as a giant upgrade over existing Core chips that go into laptops and desktops. The chips provide close to double the processing and graphics performance than their comparable predecessors.

The chips were announced at a press conference during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The chips are shipping and systems based on the chips should be available this month, the company said.

The new chips fall under the brands of Core i3 for low-end systems, Core i5 for midrange systems and Core i7 for the fastest systems, generally aimed at enthusiasts and gamers. The new processors include dual-core laptop chips under the three brands running between 1.06GHz and 2.66GHz, and desktop chips running between 2.93GHz and 3.46GHz.

At a press conference, Intel demonstrated a system with a new chip capable of playing a high-definition movie and syncing music with systems faster than prior processors.

The new chips are manufactured using the 32-nanometer process, which makes them smaller and more power-efficient than earlier chips. Based on the Westmere architecture, the transistors are a step away from chips manufactured using the 45-nanometer process.

Intel will announce quad-core chips and low-voltage processors based on the architecture later this year, said Sean Maloney, executive vice president at Intel, during a press conference.

Compared to previous chips, the new processors speed up high-end tasks like intense graphics as well as mundane tasks like syncing a music player, Maloney said. Related tasks would run close to two times faster than previous chips.

Intel has also integrated graphics chips into the new processor package, which could make the chips capable of playing Blu-ray movies or high-definition games.

But the graphics processors have some limitations. "It doesn't go into the high end... you always get a big fat graphics chip with a heat sink on it," Maloney said.

Laptop responsiveness will also improve with the Turbo Boost mode, which can crank up the speed of cores to boost performance. The technology can also shut down cores when not needed to save power.

Intel launched three Core i3, eight Core i5, and five Core i7 for laptops and desktops. The company has close to 500 designs based on the new chips, Maloney said. The chips are available immediately, and many desktops and laptops were on show on the CES show floor at Intel's booth.

The laptop processors include five Core-i7 chips, including the 620M chip that runs at 2.66GHz and is priced at $332 for 1,000 units. The slowest chip is the low-power 620UM chip, which runs at 1.06GHz and is priced at $278. Two Core i3 chip were listed for laptops, including the i3-350M, which runs at 2.26GHz. The chip's price was not immediately available. Four Core i5 chips for laptops were also listed, including the Corei5-540M, which runs at up to 2.53GHz and is priced at $257. A Core i5-520UM low-power chip runs at 1.06GHz and is priced at $241.

The new desktop processors include two Core i5 and two Core i3 chips. The fastest Core i5 chip is the Core i5-670, which runs at 3.46GHz and is priced at the $284. The fastest Core i3 chips is the Core i3-540, which runs at 3.06GHz and is priced at $133.

Westmere is based on the underpinnings of the Nehalem architecture, which itself included new features included an integrated memory controllers. Nehalem chips were manufactured using the 45-nm process and introduced late last year.

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