January 30, 2006 2:21 PM PST

Intel notebook tech to head to Santa Rosa

Intel's upcoming Merom processor will get a boost in March 2007 when the company unveils its Santa Rosa platform, in the form of a faster front-side bus and improved wireless chips.

Later this year, Intel plans to release Merom, a new dual-core notebook processor based on a new set of chip design rules. Merom is based on the same low-power principles that make up the Core Duo processor, Intel's first dual-core notebook chip. But Merom has 64-bit support built into the chip and larger amounts of cache memory.

In the last few years, Intel has introduced new chipset technology and wireless chips alongside a new processor. But Merom will be dropped into the existing 945GM and 945PM chipsets launched in January with the Core Duo. By March 2007, Intel will upgrade Merom's chipset and wireless technology with the Crestline chipset, which will be released as part of the Santa Rosa platform, according to industry sources. PC Watch first reported the new products on its Web site.

Crestline will up the speed of Intel's front-side bus to 800MHz. The front-side bus connects the processor to memory and is a crucial link that affects system performance. Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices has enjoyed a performance advantage over Intel in recent years because it decided to integrate the front-side bus directly onto its Opteron, Athlon 64 and Turion processors. This allows the memory controller to run at the same speed as the processor.

A faster front-side bus will improve the performance of 2007 Santa Rosa notebooks as compared with 2006 systems based on Merom and the 945 mobile chipsets. That chipset currently uses a 667MHz front-side bus.

Santa Rosa's wireless chip is known as Kedron, and it will probably support the forthcoming 802.11n wireless standard, according to sources. Chips based on the 802.11n standard will use MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) technology to improve the bandwidth and range of Wi-Fi networks. Wireless networking products certified for 802.11n are expected to arrive in early 2007.

An Intel representative confirmed that Santa Rosa is the code name for Intel's next-generation mobile platform in 2007, but declined to comment on other aspects of the technology.

Intel code names tend to reflect the names of towns and cities around the geography where the chips were designed. Most of the company's mobile technology over the last few years has been designed in Israel, with code names such as Banias, Dothan and Yonah. Earlier in the decade, names such as Prescott, Tualatin and Willamette reflected the surroundings of the company's design teams in Hillsboro, Ore. Santa Rosa is a town in California located about an hour north of San Francisco and about 100 miles from Intel's headquarters in Santa Clara.

 

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