Intel details its 45nm assault for early 2008

As the Consumer Electronics Show kicks off, Intel has divulged its launch roadmap for 45nm processors over the present quarter. We’ve already gone over the ins and outs of Intel’s Penryn architecture in our reviews of Intel’s Core 2 Extreme QX9650 and its first 45nm Xeons, so we won’t repeat ourselves here. To be brief, though, the new chips will have lower power utilization (thanks to the process technology shrink) and higher clock-for-clock performance (thanks to larger caches and architectural improvements) than today’s 65nm chips.

In total, Intel has 16 45nm processors spanning the desktop, mobile, and server/workstation markets lined up for launches throughout this quarter. Let’s take a look at the desktop contenders first:

Processor Cores Speed Cache FSB Price Launch
Core 2 Quad Q9550 4 2.83GHz 12MB 1333MHz $530 Q1
Core 2 Quad Q9450 4 2.66GHz 12MB 1333MHz $316 Q1
Core 2 Quad Q9300 4 2.50GHz 6MB 1333MHz $266 Q1
Core 2 Duo E8500 2 3.16GHz 6MB 1333MHz $266 January
Core 2 Duo E8400 2 3.00GHz 6MB 1333MHz $183 January
Core 2 Duo E8200 2 2.66GHz 6MB 1333MHz $163 January
Core 2 Duo E8190 2 2.66GHz 6MB 1333MHz $163 January

The fact that Intel differentiates between “January” and “Q1” for its launch schedule suggests 45nm Core 2 Quad processors have been delayed until February or March as rumored. Prices listed also tell us that 45nm Core 2 Quads won’t play in the same ballpark as AMD’s Phenom processors, which are currently available for less than $200. That’s good news for AMD, although Phenoms with more modest clock speeds may face stiff competition from some of the high-end 45nm Core 2 Duos. As a side note, Intel says its low-end Core 2 Duo E8190 will lack support for virtualization and trusted execution technology.

On the mobile side of things, Intel has five processors queued up:

Processor Cores Speed Cache FSB Price Launch
Core 2 Extreme X9000 2 2.80GHz 6MB 800MHz $851 January
Core 2 Duo T9500 2 2.60GHz 6MB 800MHz $530 January
Core 2 Duo T9300 2 2.50GHz 6MB 800MHz $316 January
Core 2 Duo T8300 2 2.40GHz 3MB 800MHz $241 January
Core 2 Duo T8100 2 2.10GHz 3MB 800MHz $209 January

These chips have prices and clock speeds not too different from those of current models (PDF). The 45nm processors’ higher performance and lower power utilization make it hard to complain, though—especially considering all five processors are due this month.

Finally, there are four new Xeons in Intel’s roadmap for Q1:

Processor Cores Speed Cache FSB Price Launch
Xeon X3360 4 2.83GHz 12MB 1333MHz $530 Q1
Xeon X3350 4 2.66GHz 12MB 1333MHz $316 Q1
Xeon X3320 4 2.50GHz 6MB 1333MHz $266 Q1
Xeon E3110 2 3.00GHz 6MB 1333MHz $188 Q1

Here, Intel isn’t taking any chances: its 45nm quad-core Xeons will be significantly cheaper than existing 65nm models. For example, the 2.66GHz Xeon X3350 will launch at $316, whereas Intel currently sells (PDF) its 2.66GHz Xeon X3230 for $530. The pricing and clock scalability of 45nm quad-core Xeons could be a danger to AMD’s quad-core Opterons, although the aforementioned chips seem to be aimed at single-socket servers only.

Of course, Intel’s plans for this year aren’t entirely about conventional x86 strongholds. The company made it clear last year that it was also planning a new Menlow platform made up of a 45nm Silverthorne processor and an accompanying Poulsbo chipset aimed specifically at “Mobile Internet Devices.” Menlow has been built from the ground up for MIDs, Intel says, and Silverthorne features 10-times-lower power utilization and a package five times smaller than that of the previous ultra-mobile Intel product.

According to Intel, the first Menlow-based MIDs will be out in the market in the second quarter of this year. Many industry big shots are said to be “pursuing Menlow-based devices,” including Aigo, Asus, BenQ, Clarion, Compal, Digifriends, EB, Gigabyte, Inventec, Lenovo, LG, LiteOn, Quanta, Toshiba, USI, and Willcom.

All things considered, Intel’s 45nm offensive looks tamer than it could have been, with many 45nm chips simply replacing previous models at roughly similar clock speeds and price points. However, as we’ve already said (and seen first-hand), the 45nm parts will bring substantial improvements in the realms of energy use and clock-for-clock performance.

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