Feature Articles

IDF Spring 2007 Update (Part 1)

IDF Spring 2007 Update (Part 1)


Penryn Unveiled

Penryn Unveiled

The Penryn family of processors will be introduced using Intel's 45nm process technology and it will populate all segments of Intel's processor line-up. Although Penryn is still based on Intel's Core microarchitecture, Intel has tweaked the processor's architecture a little to further improve its performance. Some of the changes are shown in the chart below :-

As you can see in the highly summarized feature enhancements for Penryn, Intel has made quite a bit of changes to improve its performance. Of significance would be the very large 12MB L2 cache for its quad-core parts and 6MB L2 cache for its dual-core parts. From what we found out, it seems that Penryn would be based on a single dual-core die with a total of 6MB L2 cache. Quad-core processors would be manufactured using two silicon dies mounted on a single LGA775 chip package, similar to how it's currently done with Kentsfield. We think Intel is playing it safe by manufacturing dual-core dies rather than large quad-core dies. Since a smaller die would naturally result in higher yields, Intel chose this path to ensure that they are getting enough chips out of a single silicon wafer since 45nm is, after all, a new process. Of course, this would be significant savings to Intel as well since they would probably sell their quad-core parts at premium price while the cost of the chip is only the cost of two dual-core chips.

In addition to adding more transistors to make up a larger L2 cache, Intel is adding more instructions into the processor, in the form of SSE4. This time around, Intel is adding as many as 47 new instructions specifically targeted at improving the performance of media, graphics and gaming applications. A 128-bit Super Shuffle engine will also be introduced to improve the encoding, decoding and transcoding of high-definition video.

For future notebooks using the Penryn processor, it will benefit much with its new Deep Power Down Technology. This new method provides for an even deeper sleep state which would further reduce the power consumption of the notebook at idle state. Instead of flushing the caches of the processor in C4 state, Deep Power Down will turn off both the L1 and L2 caches to cut power usage.

Another power feature introduced in Penryn, known as Enhanced Dynamic Acceleration Technology, takes advantage of powering down one of the cores to boost the performance of the other core. This is especially useful under applications that are still single threaded (e.g. most games) and boosting the single core frequency above its specified speed would get the job done much quicker. According to Intel, the TDP under the Enhanced Dynamic Acceleration state is lower than running both cores at the same time. Thus, in addition to getting a speed boost, you consume less power at the same time. Of course, this would only be applicable with most legacy single threaded applications.