Intel Ultra Thin Webcast: CULV goes Arrandale

Although we first discussed Arrandale processors and the low voltage/ultra low voltage parts way back in early January, we haven't actually seen any of the parts yet. Earlier today, Intel released more information with initial product demonstrations of their new CULV (Consumer Ultra Low Voltage) processors. On hand were Acer, ASUS, Gateway, Lenovo, and MSI laptops—likely with plenty more to follow. You can view the recorded Intel webcast—or you may find the PDF slides more your style—but we'll summarize the salient details here.

The big deal with the new products is that Intel is now able to push higher performance parts into ultra thin, ultra portable laptops. We've been big proponents of CULV over the past six months, as products like the ASUS UL series, Acer Timeline, and various other laptops have enabled much higher performance than Atom-based netbooks in a form factor that's only moderately larger. We also had interesting "hybrid" products like the Alienware M11x and ASUS ULxxVt that paired CULV with switchable graphics and overclocking. For those that already want an 11.6" or 13.3" laptop instead of the tiny 10" netbooks, the size difference was hardly a problem. Let's start with a quick list of the new Ultra-Thin CPU parts, where you'll notice some part number changes relative to our initial table:

Intel Arrandale CULV Parts
Brand and Model Base Clock Max Turbo Clock Cores/Threads Cache IGP Frequency Pricing
Core i7-660UM 1.33GHz 2.40GHz 2/4 4MB 166-500MHz $305
Core i5-540UM 1.20GHz 2.00GHz 2/4 3MB 166-500MHz $241
Core i5-430UM 1.20GHz 1.73GHz 2/4 3MB 166-500MHz N/A
Core i3-330UM 1.20GHz N/A 2/4 3MB 166-500MHz N/A
Pentium U5400 1.20GHz N/A 2/2 3MB 166-500MHz N/A
Celeron U3400 1.20GHz N/A 2/2 2MB 166-500MHz $134

At the top, we have a Core i7 part. The base clock is a rather tame 1.33GHz, but Turbo Boost will allow the CPU to scale as high as 2.40GHz. At 2.40GHz, the Westmere core should outperform any Core 2 Duo mobile processor, so we potentially have top Core 2 Duo performance in a much smaller package. Moving down the performance ladder, things drop quite quickly into far less impressive performance characteristics. The second tier i5-540UM runs at 1.20GHz stock and comes with 3MB L3, which should be slightly faster than the current Core 2 CULV chips (thanks to Hyper-Threading and other enhancements). Turbo Boost only goes to 2.0GHz this time, though that's still pretty good. Finally, the i5-430UM clocks at 1.2GHz/1.73GHz—meaning performance will be better than the overclocked CULV laptops like the UL80Vt and M11x, all without any extra tweaking. (Intel states that the i5-430UM beats the old SU7300 by about 30% in PCMark Vantage.) The remaining parts all lack Turbo Boost, so they run at a constant 1.20GHz clock speed. The i3-330UM keeps Hyper-Threading while the Pentium and Celeron parts cut that as well, with the Celeron coming with 2MB L3 cache compared to 3MB on most of the other parts.

It's interesting to note that the Intel HD Graphics clock speed is the same 166-500MHz range on all the parts. That's probably sufficient, as anyone interested in boosting graphics performance at that point would be better served by something like NVIDIA's Optimus GPUs. We'll have an article soon looking at graphics performance with AMD and Intel IGP solutions, and you may be surprised to find out that Intel can be quite competitive in the IGP arena. Sadly, parts like the new NVIDIA 320M (48-core IGP chipset) are likely to remain Apple-only solutions as most PC laptops have moved away from Core 2.

While the clock speeds are nothing spectacular, the combination of 18W TDP (for CPU + IGP/chipset) should enable 8+ hour run times with thinner and lighter laptops. More important perhaps is that Intel has also come out with smaller packages for the CPU and chipset to help enable ultra thin laptops. The standard package size for i3/i5/i7 mobile CPUs is 37.5x37.5mm, with a 25x27mm PCH. The new CULV parts reduce the CPU package to 34x28mm and the SFF PCH is 22x20mm—a total space savings of over 30%.

For those who love all day battery life but want something more than Core 2 performance, new laptops using the Arrandale CULV processors are likely to appear in the next couple of weeks. Frankly, we're a bit surprised that it took this long for Intel to update their CULV platform, but ultra portables have been in need of a good shot in the arm for a while. We'll be wrapping up a few final parting shots for Core 2 CULV in the next few weeks, after which we hope to get some hands-on time with these new products. Stay tuned!

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  • ImSpartacus - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    "Intel states that the i5-430UM beast the old SU7300 by about 30% in PCMark Vantage."

    "beast" --> "beats"

    Nice preview article. God, I can't wait until these start hitting the market!
  • CZroe - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    I think he meant "bests" as in "one bests the other."
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    No, I meant "beats". LOL. I fixed the typo.
  • sleepeeg3 - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    These sound awesome. Thanks for the update. Atom needs to quietly disappear and be replaced by these bad boys. Loving the SU7300 already, but more speed at same power consumption is always helpful.
  • bji - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    Atom still has a useful place in the line-up; it is HUGELY less expensive than these parts. It is also HUGELY less powerful, but for quite a few applications, it is enough.

    That being said, I have put together an Atom 330 based fanless/spindle-less system for a particular task but I am finding that it doesn't quite have enough horsepower for my needs. I am having a very hard time finding anything faster with low power consumption that is generally available for a 'standard' socket and doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

    I am interested in the new Athlon II 45 W parts but can't find them for sale anywhere. So what are my other options? I want 45W or less and my application doesn't need more than 2 cores. I also prefer not to go with a platform that has hugely expensive motherboards like Socket P.

    Is it possible to buy a standard socket processor and underclock/undervolt it down to 45W? If so, which processor would be the best choice? Keep in mind that I need something at least twice, preferably three times, as fast as an Atom 330 ...
  • Martimus - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    Llano should be out by the end of the year, and it has a TDP of 20-59W. Bobcat will be released about the same time, and it will be much more powerful than Atom, and be 1-10W.

    One of those may meet your needs, if not maybe the Atom successor will do it, but I doubt it as Intel is working more on reducing power than increasing performance. (Which is what I would be doing if I were them too.)
  • Zoomer - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    One example:

    Just lookup wiki's list of processors and find by keyword. :)
  • sleepeeg3 - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Atom is underpowered for anything, but typing. Flash, HD video, PDFs or spreadsheets make it unusable for web-browsing or anything else. Even coupled with ION, it is still too slow to be practical.
  • SpeedDemonAaron - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    Any ballpark estimates when we can expect to see the Asus laptops start shipping with this?
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    June seems likely, since two of the demo models are ASUS (UL30 and UL80).

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