Intel Westmere 32nm Integrates Graphics in the CPU

Intel’s Westmere 32nm Processor is built on the Core i7 micro-architecture but uses a more advanced manufacturing process. For consumers, the highlight is that it will consume less and be faster (surprised?). 32nm also means that more processors can be produced from a single silicon wafer, which translates to higher yields (less defects) and lower prices (in the latter part of the product cycle).

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Thanks to its 4Ghz clock speed, Intel expects increased performance in Single and Multi-threads applications (that’s good!). For the first time, the company will integrate a graphics core in the CPU package, but not on the same die (die = piece of silicon). Having multiple dies is like having multiple chips in the same package. Having multiple dies allows each die/chip to evolve on its own but let them all use the fast memory embedded inside the CPU. Note that a 45nm process is used to build the IGP (Integrated Graphics Processor), while a 32nm is used on the processor: this is also a good way to use the edgy process on the high-margin product, which is the CPU. Graphic architectures also tend to have a shorter life cycle than CPUs.

The CPUs with the integrated graphics are codenamed ClarkDale (desktop) and Arrandale (laptop). They will have 2 cores with HyperThreading and will hopefully be in volume production in Q4 of 2009 – no launch date has been announced yet. Quad-Core versions of Westmere won’t have the integrated graphics for now. Motherboards will still be based on the Intel 5 Series chipset that powers today’s X58.

The addition of the graphics core into the CPU package won’t increase performance by much (we don’t consider this to be a “gaming” graphics processing unit or GPU) but it will save some footprint, which is always good as computers become smaller. Performance should improve somehow, relative to the previous IGP, thanks to the extra GPU memory performance. If you wonder, this won’t be a standalone GPU-killer.

Your takeway should be that we expect better power management, faster performance (25%?) and slightly better graphics performance (relative to Intel’s previous IGP).

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