Intel Westmere Architecture and Clarkdale Processor Preview
Clarkdale makes its debut
For a quick rundown of the below content, check out our video coverage here:
Now, for a bit more detail, better diagrams and opinion, keep reading below about those upcoming Clarkdale and Arrandale CPUs.
You can see here that Westmere will only be a dual-core product though HyperThreading will be enabled across the core to support a total of 4 threads. While disappointing for some enthusiasts, dual-core quad-threaded processors should be more than enough for the target audience here and in order to facilitate inclusion of other new features, it was required.
The chipset solution is basically the same as the P55, though we are getting a new offering, the P57. The only change here is that the chipset has a display interface for the processor to use with its integrated graphics to facilitate video outputs. This connection is pretty low bandwidth but will be another physical connection for the board vendors to run traces for on P57 offerings.
The P57 chipset improves on the integrated audio as well by supporting true uncompressed digital audio formats and new Blu-ray audio codecs like Dolby TrueHD. We saw this working in the demo booth with a copy of Madagascar using a high quality audio receiver. It is nice to see companies like Intel taking this audio issue a bit more seriously than they had before on the G45 platform.
You are likely asking yourself why Intel bothered to move the memory controller from the CPU die to the external die. While Intel wasn't completely open we are pretty sure there were some issues moving the IMC from the 45nm process to the 32nm process
and simply keeping it at 45nm was an easy solution. It could also be that the GPU on die would benefit more from the slightly lower latency than the CPU cores would.
Of course, the P57-platform and Clarkdale processors will still support discrete graphics via a PCI Express 2.0 interface if the user wants to add-in the extra card.
The Westmere core also adds a significant new feature that accelerates AES encryption and decryption for file and whole-disk security. This basically allows the CPU to do 128-bit decryption in real-time so securing your files on your PC will have little to no effect on system performance.
As for Clarkdale, because it will always be plugged into the wall, the GPU will apparently always be running at full speed.
You may also see a black socket right behind the DVI port and wonder what that is: it was meant to house the upcoming Braidwood cards but since that technology has been pushed back, you will not be seeing that connection on the board when it ships.
Now let's take a look at some performance numbers; keep in mind that these were run by Intel, not by us, so take them with a grain of salt. They are normalized to a Core 2 Duo E8500 processor that runs at 3.16 GHz. The Intel Clarkdale processor is running at 3.33 GHz.
Westmere won't excite everyone but the prospect getting significantly better performance than dual-core and quad-core Core 2 processors available today while using much less power at idle and load while introducing new features like AES encryption acceleration and on-CPU graphics should getting your gears working. Home theater PCs will definitely look more and more enticing with 24 watt idle power consumptions and support for the best quality audio and video formats/codecs right out of the box.
There is a bit of confusion from a lot of readers about Clarkdale and Arrandale though about why the company would only introduce dual-core variants and seemingly leave quad-core processors to Lynnfield for most of 2010. Intel answers that Gulftown will be out for the enthusiast pretty soon (6-core LGA1366 part) but that will only appeal to a select few users. In reality Intel likely could not fit both a quad-core CPU and integrated graphics with IMC on the same package and thus cutting the cores down to a pair was required.
Also, why would Intel move the integrated memory controller off the CPU die for only a generation when they are already planning on integrating all of the components (CPU, GPU and IMC) into a single die with Sandy Bridge? That is something we hope to get answered very soon but for this level of CPU performance the memory controller movement will likely not affect performance more than a couple of percent, even in the worst case.
So while not everyone is going to be excited about Clarkdale and Arrandale, we definitely are. The world of notebooks should benefit significantly in terms of performance/watt (and leave those Clarksfield notebooks where they belong, on the shelves). Budget PCs will also enjoy a nice feature and performance boost. If prices are as low as expected, Clarkdale will surely find a home in many a desktop this winter.
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