Intel unveiled its new Core 2 Duo processor lineup on Thursday, increasing the pressure on rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). The 10 new dual-core chips promise markedly better performance and greater energy efficiency than Intel’s existing products.
The chip was launched at a special event at Intel’s headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif. and was billed as Intel’s most significant chip since the introduction of the original Pentium processor in 1993.
Intel Core 2 is “the best microprocessor we’ve ever built,” said Intel CEO, Paul Otellini. “This is not just an incremental change… This is a revolutionary leap.”
The introduction comes at a crucial moment. Intel executives have watched AMD expand its share of the processor market in recent quarters and they want to reclaim this lost ground.
“We’re really bullish on Core 2 Duo and we believe that it’s going to enable us to grow a significant amount of (market) share over the second half of the year. That’s our goal,” said Tim Bailey, director of platform marketing at Intel Asia-Pacific.
Among the chips announced by Intel are five processors designed for laptops and five desktop chips, including the high-end Core 2 Extreme processor for gamers. Pricing for the desktop chips ranges from US$183 for the 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo E6300 to $999 for the 2.93GHz Core 2 Extreme X6800. Pricing of the mobile chips was not available.
Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme are based on Intel’s Core microarchitecture, which replaces the NetBurst architecture used in the Pentium 4. The same microarchitecture is used in Woodcrest, the latest version of the Xeon server processor announced last month.
Otellini said Intel believes that the Core 2 Duo will lead to “revolutionary advancements in computing, sleek form factors… and better performance.”
PC vendors say Core 2 Duo, formerly called Conroe and Merom, offers excellent performance for its price, allowing them to reach new markets.
Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) will use the Core 2 Duo chip in its new xw4400 workstation, replacing the Intel Pentium 4 and Pentium D chips used in the xw4300 model. HP sells that line primarily to users running compute-intensive applications like MCAD (mechanical computer-aided design) and digital content creation.
Core 2 Duo runs at slower clock speeds than Pentium-era chips, but is still more productive because it handles more calculations per clock cycle, said Sean Tucker, a product manager at HP. Thanks to that slower speed, Core 2 Duo chips need less electricity, drawing just 65 watts compared to the Pentium 4’s 95 watts and Pentium D’s 130 watts.
“That’s good news for customers because it draws less power from the wall, which helps to create a cooler working environment because it doesn’t dissipate so much heat, and a quieter environment because we can run the fan slower and generate less acoustical output,” Tucker said.
While Intel has begun shipping desktop Core 2 Duo chips to computer makers, most systems won’t reach consumers until next week. The first Core 2 Duo desktops will reach users in early August, with Core 2 Duo laptops arriving by the end of the month, Intel said, noting that Core 2 Extreme systems are already available.
The Core 2 Duo chips are made using a 65-nanometer production process, one of the reasons they consume 40 percent less power and offer a 40 percent or greater increase in performance, based on Intel’s estimates. The number used to describe the production process refers to the size of the smallest feature that can be created on a chip.
Otellini said during his presentation that the Core 2 Duo would have 40 percent better performance in desktops, while using 40 percent less power. Notebooks will see a 20 percent performance improvement while maintaining the same battery life.
Intel began using the 65-nanometer process last year, starting the move away from the less-advanced 90-nanometer process. Shifting to a more advanced process generally permits the production of chips that are smaller, run faster and consume less power. The more advanced process also reduces the per-unit cost of chips, since more can fit on a single silicon wafer.
With the introduction of the Core 2 Duo, Intel now produces more 60-nanometer chips than 90-nanometer chips, the company said. That will help Intel put pressure on AMD, which still produces most of its chips using a 90-nanometer process.
Intel clearly expects to see big sales from the release of the Core 2 Duo. Otellini said the company expects to ship its 1 millionth Core 2 Duo processor in a little less than seven weeks after launch. In comparison, it took Pentium a year to reach that level of ramp-up.
Macworld Executive Editor Philip Michaels attended the Intel launch event and contributed to this report.