Analysis: Despite Intel’s openness, Apple keeps us guessing

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What lies ahead

Despite these limitations, another pair of recently announced quad-core processors spark the imagination. Two weeks ago, Intel introduced low-power quad-core 2.33GHz and 2.5GHz Xeons, each with a TDP of a mere 50W. In comparison, the top-end 3.2GHz Xeon in the top-end Mac Pro is listed in Intel’s literature as having a TDP of a scorching 150W (unless Apple has a private deal with Intel to provide them with a lower-TDP 3.2GHz Xeon, which is certainly a possibility).

If you want to indulge in a flight of fancy, drop two of these new Xeons into a Stoakley-based logic board in a smaller form-factor desktop Mac, and fill the ever-widening gap between the iMac and the Mac Pro. A maxi Mac mini, anyone?

Soon-to-be-released dual-core Penryns will likely have more prosaic but still interesting lives. The small form-factor 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz Meroms in the MacBook Air will almost certainly be replaced by the small form-factor Penryns with equal clock speeds that are expected to ship late this spring. There’s also another upcoming, equally tiny Penryn pair—1.2GHz and 1.4GHz processors with miserly 10W TDPs—that’s fodder for interesting speculation. Might we finally see the ultra-mini laptop we’ve been jonesing for?

Or might Apple offer a truly teeny laptop—something on par with the Asus Eee PC—based on an entirely new line of ultra-low-power Intel processors that were christened Atom (and codenamed Silverthorne and Diamondville during their development) when they were formally unveiled on March 2?

We don’t know. And neither do you. Despite the relative openness of Intel’s microprocessor roadmap, Apple still keeps us guessing.

And that’s just the way Steve Jobs likes it.

Intel’s Mac History

Code Name Brand Name Number Process Tick/Tock* Microarchitecture Launched Used by Apple Mac Notes
Yonah Core Duo T2400 65nm Tick Banias January 2006 January 2006 17-inch iMac 2 cores, 1.83GHz, 2MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Yonah Core Duo T2500 65nm Tick Banias January 2006 January 2006 20-inch iMac 2 cores, 2.0GHz, 2MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Yonah Core Solo T1200 65nm Tick Banias January 2006 February 2006 Mac mini 1 core, 1.5GHz. 2MB cache, 667MHz bus
Yonah Core Duo T2300 65nm Tick Banias January 2006 February 2006 Mac mini 2 cores, 1.66GHz, 2MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Yonah Core Duo T2400 65nm Tick Banias January 2006 September 2006 Mac mini 2 cores, 1.83GHz, 2MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Yonah Core Duo T2400 65nm Tick Banias January 2006 May 2006 MacBook 2 cores, 1.83GHz, 2MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Yonah Core Duo T2500 65nm Tick Banias January 2006 May 2006 MacBook 2 cores, 2.0GHz, 2MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Yonah Core Duo T2400 65nm Tick Banias January 2006 January 2006 15-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 1.83GHz, 2MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Yonah Core Duo T2500 65nm Tick Banias January 2006 January 2006 15-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.0GHz, 2MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Yonah Core Duo T2600 65nm Tick Banias January 2006 January 2006 15-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.16GHz, 2MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Yonah Core Duo T2600 65nm Tick Banias January 2006 April 2006 17-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.16GHz, 2MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Woodcrest Xeon 5130 65nm Tock Core June 2006 August 2006 Mac Pro Dual 2-core, 2.0GHz, 4MB shared L2 per processor, dual 1.33GHz bus
Woodcrest Xeon 5150 65nm Tock Core June 2006 August 2006 Mac Pro Dual 2-core, 2.66GHz, 4MB shared L2 per processor, dual 1.33GHz bus
Woodcrest Xeon 5160 65nm Tock Core June 2006 August 2006 Mac Pro Dual 2-core, 3.0GHz, 4MB shared L2 per processor, dual 1.33GHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T5600 65nm Tock Core July 2006 September 2006 17-inch iMac 2 cores, 1.83GHz, 2MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7400 65nm Tock Core July 2006 September 2006 20-inch iMac 2 cores, 2.16GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7600 65nm Tock Core July 2006 September 2006 20-inch iMac 2 cores, 2.33GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7400 65nm Tock Core July 2006 September 2006 24-inch iMac 2 cores, 2.16GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7600 65nm Tock Core July 2006 September 2006 24-inch iMac 2 cores, 2.33GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7300 65nm Tock Core July 2006 August 2007 20-inch iMac 2 cores, 2.0GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 800MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7700 65nm Tock Core July 2006 August 2007 20-inch iMac 2 cores, 2.4GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 800MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7700 65nm Tock Core July 2006 August 2007 24-inch iMac 2 cores, 2.4GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 800MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T5600 65nm Tock Core July 2006 August 2007 Mac mini 2 cores, 1.83GHz, 2MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7300 65nm Tock Core July 2006 August 2007 Mac mini 2 cores, 2.0GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T5600 65nm Tock Core July 2006 November 2006 MacBook 2 cores, 1.83GHz, 2MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7200 65nm Tock Core July 2006 November 2006 MacBook 2 cores, 2.0GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7300 65nm Tock Core July 2006 May 2007 MacBook 2 cores, 2.16GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7300 65nm Tock Core July 2006 November 2006 MacBook 2 cores, 2.0GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 800MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7500 65nm Tock Core July 2006 November 2007 MacBook 2 cores, 2.2GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 800MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo P7500 65nm Tock Core July 2006 January 2008 MacBook Air 2 cores, 1.6GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 800MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo P7700 65nm Tock Core July 2006 January 2008 MacBook Air 2 cores, 1.8GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 800MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7400 65nm Tock Core July 2006 October 2006 15-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.16GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7600 65nm Tock Core July 2006 October 2006 15-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.33GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7600 65nm Tock Core July 2006 October 2006 17-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.33GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 667MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7500 65nm Tock Core July 2006 June 2007 15-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.2GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 800MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7700 65nm Tock Core July 2006 June 2007 15-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.4GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 800MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7800 65nm Tock Core July 2006 June 2007 15-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.6GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 800MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7700 65nm Tock Core July 2006 June 2007 17-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.4GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 800MHz bus
Merom Core 2 Duo T7800 65nm Tock Core July 2006 June 2007 17-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.6GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 800MHz bus
Clovertown Xeon 5365 65nm Tock Core July 2007 April 2007^ Mac Pro dual 4-core, 3.0GHz, 8MB shared L2 per processor, dual 1.33GHz bus
Merom XE Core 2 Duo Extreme X7900 65nm Tock Core August 2007 August 2007 24-inch iMac 2 cores, 2.8GHz, 4MB shared L2 cache, 800MHz bus
Harpertown Xeon 5462 45nm Tick Core November 2007 January 2008 Mac Pro 4 cores, 2.8GHz, 12MB shared L2 cache, 1.6GHz bus
Harpertown Xeon 5462 45nm Tick Core November 2007 January 2008 Mac Pro Dual 4-core, 2.8GHz, 12 shared L2 per processor, dual 1.6GHz bus
Harpertown Xeon 5472 45nm Tick Core November 2007 January 2008 Mac Pro Dual 4-core, 3.0GHz, 12 shared L2 per processor, dual 1.6GHz bus
Harpertown Xeon 5482 45nm Tick Core November 2007 January 2008 Mac Pro Dual 4-core, 3.2GHz, 12 shared L2 per processor, dual 1.6GHz bus
Penryn Core 2 Duo T8100 45nm Tick Core January 2008 February 2008 MacBook 2 cores, 2.1GHz, 3MB shared L2, 800MHz bus
Penryn Core 2 Duo T8300 45nm Tick Core January 2008 February 2008 MacBook 2 cores, 2.4GHz, 3MB shared L2, 800MHz bus
Penryn Core 2 Duo T8300 45nm Tick Core January 2008 February 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.4GHz, 3MB shared L2, 800MHz bus
Penryn Core 2 Duo T9300 45nm Tick Core January 2008 February 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.5GHz, 6MB shared L2, 800MHz bus
Penryn Core 2 Duo T9500 45nm Tick Core January 2008 February 2008 17-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.6GHz, 6MB shared L2, 800MHz bus
Penryn Core 2 Duo T9300 45nm Tick Core January 2008 February 2008 17-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.5GHz, 6MB shared L2, 800MHz bus
Penryn Core 2 Duo T9500 45nm Tick Core January 2008 February 2008 17-inch MacBook Pro 2 cores, 2.6GHz, 6MB shared L2, 800MHz bus

* In Intel parlance, a “tick” is a new (smaller) process used with a previous microarchitecture, and a “tock” is a new microarchitecture built using a previous process. ^ Note that the Clovertown Xeon 5365 was avaiable in the Mac Pro before it was officially launched.

[Rik Myslewski has been writing about the Mac since 1989. He has been editor in chief of MacAddict (now Mac|Life), executive editor of MacUser and director of MacUser Labs, and executive producer of Macworld Live.]

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