Intel Centrino Duo 'Napa' Mobile Technology Explained

The New Famous Three

The New Famous Three

The first thing you need to know about the Centrino Duo (Napa platform) is that it is a complete overhaul of the older 'Sonoma' Centrino platform, which means to say no Centrino Duo notebook will carry over any remnants from its predecessor. You will find instead a brand new processor, a fresh change of chipset and a cutting edge WiFi controller; Intel Core Duo processor, Mobile Intel 945 Express chipset and Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG network connection respectively.

Pack these three components together and you will, theoretically at least, have a Centrino in your hands.

Intel Core Duo Microprocessor

The star of the new Centrino Duo mobile technology platform is none other than the Intel Core Duo microprocessor. Important for not just being the next generation of mobile processors for Intel to further widen the gulf between her and her competitors, the arrival of Intel Core Duo processor also signifies a revolution in notebook computing as it is the first time consumer notebooks are fitted with a mobile-optimized dual-core processor built using the latest 65nm manufacturing process technology.

Codenamed 'Yonah', the new Intel Core Duo processor has been put under the spotlight for the longest of time. Yet, despite all the ongoing talks and intimate discussions about the elusive processor when it was first mentioned at IDF Fall 2004, no further technical details had been disclosed from then till now – but that has not stopped us from carrying out our own probing.

Two "Brains" Are Better Than One

Not one but two cores.

Suffice to say, Intel is right on track to make the year 2006 a year of dual-core computing now that they have kick started the year with the Intel Centrino Duo mobile technology. By squeezing two execution cores onto one tiny 90.3mm� die, Intel claims the immediate benefit is a tangible performance gain for multi-threaded applications and where multitasking is concerned. While this does make perfect logical sense, there is actually more sophistication to the brain of 'Yonah' than just a mere increment in the core department.

Engineered from the ground up, the architectural design of Yonah is such that it features two Pentium-M cores (Dothan variants) positioned side by side on a die but with a shared 2MB L2 cache. The idea is to utilize a clever shared bus interface to allocate cache access so that it would result in a small yet efficient processor rather than having to deal with thorny issues such as redundant logic, signal strength and power leakages if separate pools of cache were implemented. As a result of this and the 65nm manufacturing process, Intel was able to pack almost twice the number of transistors found in the first generation of Centrino notebooks without dramatically increasing the die size even with the addition of a second core. At a staggering count of 151 million transistors, Yonah has 11 and 74 million more transistors than its predecessors, the 'Dothan' and 'Banias' processors respectively while the die size of Yonah is just 7.5% and 10% more respectively. Even the processor side bus or more commonly known as front side bus, has been steadily increased over the generations, now cruising at a speedy 667MHz as compared to Dothan's 533MHz and Banias' 400MHz.

Processor Comparison
Processor Model Banias Dothan Yonah
Manufacturing Technology 130nm (0.13 micron) 90nm (0.09 micron) 65nm (0.065 micron)
No. of Transistors 77 million 140 million 151.6 million
Die Size 82 mm² 84 mm² 90.3 mm²
Processor Side Bus 400MHz 400MHz/533MHz 667MHz (Power Optimized)
L1 Cache (data + instruction) 32KB + 32KB 32KB + 32KB 32KB + 32KB
L2 Cache 1MB full-speed 2MB full-speed 2MB shared (Intel Smart Cache)
Form Factor mPGA479 mPGA479 PGA478 or BGA479
Thermal Design Power 24W 21W ~21W
Core Technolologies SSE, SSE2, Enhanced SpeedStep SSE, SSE2, Enhanced SpeedStep SSE, SSE2, SSE3, Enhanced SpeedStep, Virtualization Technology, Enchanced Deeper Sleep
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