For much of the last decade, Intel
To be fair, Intel did make steady progress over the previous decade in improving the power efficiency (i.e., power consumption relative to performance) of its mainstream processors, starting with the release of its Pentium M notebook processors in 2003 and continuing with the release of its first Core 2 Duo processors in 2006. But Intel's Nehalem chip architecture, which is behind the Core i7, i5, and i3 processors that it's released over the last 14 months, takes this commitment to low power a step further. Thanks to integrated power management circuitry on each processor, systems based on the least power-hungry Nehalem desktop platform (Lynnfield) have been tested as consuming less than 30% as much power in idle mode as comparable Core 2 Quad systems -- or, for that matter, competing desktop systems from AMD
Clarkdale and Arrandale rewrite the rules
Intel's goal with Nehalem wasn't just to further improve power efficiency, however, and its most recent chip announcements bear this out. The company's Clarkdale and Arrandale platforms, respectively targeted at the mainstream desktop and notebook markets, mark a transition where Intel has integrated a graphics processor within the same chip package as a microprocessor, rather than on a motherboard chipset. By doing this, Intel can both bring down system costs, and in the case of Arrandale, allow for thinner, lighter notebook systems to be built.
But how do these built-in graphics processors perform, you might ask? That might be the best part. Benchmarks showed huge improvements over Intel's chipset-based integrated graphics platforms for graphics-related tasks, including gains above 100% in some gaming benchmarks. These chips still won't remove the need for discrete graphics from the likes of NVIDIA
It wouldn't surprise me to see Apple
Less power consumption, lower systems costs, thinner and lighter hardware, better multimedia performance for the average Joe. I'd say that those make for much better selling points than some arcane techspeak about front-side bus speeds and cache sizes. And they could also deliver a 2010 sales boost for Intel.
Eric Jhonsa has no position in any of the companies mentioned. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Apple and NVIDIA are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Intel is a Motley Fool Options Buy Calls recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool has a disclosure policy.