Based on the same Nehalem architecture that has sired the Core i7 and Core i5 desktop chips, the new mobile beast will come in three flavours.
The flagship chip is the 2.0GHz Core i7-920XM. It's a quad-core CPU with HyperThreading and therefore eight logical processors. Cache quantities are in line with desktop Core i7s. So that's 512K per core and 8MB shared.
Next up is the mid-range Core i7-820QM, a 1.73GHz chip with 8MB of cache, four cores and eight threads. Finally, there's an entry level offering in the form of the 1.6GHz Core i7-720QM. Again it's an eight-thread, four-core beastie, but it takes a minor hit in terms of cache memory with just 6MB shared. All three sport an integrated dual-channel memory controller supporting 1,333MHz DDR3.
Those core clockspeeds may seem a little underwhelming for what is claimed to the the fastest notebook chip known to man. But here's the thing. Just like desktop Core i5 and i7 processors, the new mobile variant sports Intel's Turbo Boost auto-overclocking feature.
This time, however, Intel has really pulled out the stops. With Turbo Boost enabled, the 920XM will spool up to a maximum of 3.2GHz while the 820QM and 720QM will hit 3.06 and 2.8GHz respectively. In excess of 1GHz's worth of overclocking, in other words.
Impressive stuff, though there is a catch. Turbo Boost only runs at full reheat with single-threaded software. Stress a second core and these chips will clock down by 133MHz. More significantly, light up all four cores and they'll run just 266MHz above the officially rated frequency.
Performance on the fly
Still, there's little doubt the new Core i7 Mobile has the most sophisticated power management yet seen in a mobile CPU. Everything from voltages to dividers can be tweaked on the fly to make the most of the available power and thermal budget.
Indeed, Intel's mobile guru Dadi Perlmutter told the assembled throng at IDF that Core i7 Mobile actually delivers more performance than Intel's top quad-core server chip of just two years ago. That's progress for you.
Of course, although Core i7 Mobile shares much with existing Intel desktop chips, it's a thoroughly new architecture for notebooks. It will therefore be just one component in an all new mobile platform. Intel says notebooks are already shipping from the big boys including Dell and HP. We certainly look forward to taking them for a test drive.
More to come
While Core i7 mobile will no doubt blow away all comers for sheer performance, it's unlikely to come cheaply. The most inexpensive model will cost OEMs around £250 in 1,000 unit quantities.
With that in mind, it's actually the upcoming 32nm dual-core Nehalem based mobile chip, currently known under the codename Arrandale, that we are keen to see more of. As we discovered today during a benchmarking session, it's a super impressive chip and likely to be much more relevant to those looking for the best combination of portability and performance. More on that tomorrow once we're the right side of a pesky little NDA.
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