Continuing our IDF Spring 2006 coverage, this year marks a departure from what we saw at previous IDFs. Not only did Intel change the scheduling, this year we see a lot more in depth talks about technology released. Partially this is because 2006 seems to be the year that most of the technologies Intel has talked about in the past two years come alive. We saw very interesting announcements over the mobility and digital home segments, which we'll try to highlight here.
First off, during Sean Maloney's keynote, we got to see a preview on what to expect from Merom, Intel's next mobile processor. As initially announced, Merom will be basically launched on a Napa refresh, which means that the processor will simply be a plug-in to the current Centrino Duo platform (since Merom is pin-compatible with Yonah). Manufacturers and OEMs will have a much easier time ramping these systems since by the time Merom is launched sometime in Q3 this year, we'll have plenty of Centrino Duo designs out in the market already. Because of this, there has been a misconception that Merom is just Yonah with 64-bit.
However, while Merom will include many of the technologies of Yonah like shared cache and Enhanced Deeper Sleep, Merom is a totally new processor based on the Core microarchitecture we reported on yesterday. Intel was quick to point out just how wrong this myth was. With a demo running on two identical Dell Centrino Duo notebooks (detailed specifications were not mentioned, but we were assured that both are identical with one having a Merom prototype plugged in), Intel benchmarked Quake 4. The original Core Duo notebook posted a 100fps timedemo run, while the Merom performed around 30% faster at 133fps. If you're looking for performance graphs, stay tuned to this space as we will show you some very surprising numbers of a working Core microarchitecture chip real soon.
The most interesting thing about the mobility track will actually be seen in 2007 when Intel launches the Santa Rosa platform. Santa Rosa will bring the Merom processor full circle with a new generation of integrated graphics and ICH8M chipset (Crestline), plus enhancing wireless again with the new Kedron wireless component that has 802.11n MIMO WiFi capabilities.
Perhaps the most interesting announcement though was that Santa Rosa would be the first chipset to feature a great new NAND flash technology, called Robson, which Intel previewed during IDF Fall 2005 in Taiwan. Robson flash is an integrated NAND component which acts as a secondary storage or cache, helping mobile devices boot up or run applications faster. Intel ran the same demo it did last year in Taiwan, but this time around, they even previewed that Robson would even help reduce energy consumption. We're unsure exactly how Robson would actually be implemented as well as whether there will be configurable sizes (though the demo was run with a 256MB Robson module), but since it is in Santa Rosa, users can expect Robson to be commercially available by 2007. Coupled with EFI to replace the legacy BIOS system, we should see quite an impressive boost in system boot-up and application launch times.