Intels savior has arrived.
The Santa Clara, Calif., chip maker on July 27 unveiled its Core 2 Duo processor for desktops and notebooks during an event at its Silicon Valley headquarters.
Intel executives proclaimed the chip—and therefore Intel itself—the new king of the PC processor hill, based on its strengths, which promises a 40 percent increase in performance and a 40 percent reduction in power consumption versus the Pentium D, its predecessor in desktops.
But the Core 2 Duo—which will come out first in consumer desktops this week and follow in corporate desktops and then notebooks in August—represents even more for the company.
"This is one of the biggest new microprocessors weve done in many years—at least a decade—and many people say the biggest one since the Pentium," said David Tuhy, general manager of desktop products division in Santa Clara, in an interview with eWEEK.
Meanwhile, with 550 Core 2 Duo desktop and notebook designs in the works, "Weve got a lot of momentum on the products."
The overall significance for Intel is also big. The chip maker has conducted an extensive business efficiency review, which has already lead to some layoffs, while also working feverishly to deliver the Core 2 Duo chips to market as quickly as possible.
The two actions, while seemingly independent, both work to help Intel right itself after a string of lackluster quarters and attempt to win back the market share recently taken by rival Advanced Micro Devices.
"This is the chip thats the key to Intels recovery," said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research, in Cave Creek, Ariz.
"[Intel] needs this product. The product and its derivatives are pretty critical for Intel to maintain a competitive position," McCarron said.
Even so, statements by Intel executives such as Tuhy may seem at least slightly overblown.
"I wouldnt underestimate the value and impact of this chip for Intel," McCarron said. "Intel has been running on the same microarchitecture [circuitry that underpins its processor] for six years."
That architecture, known as NetBurst, is the basis for Intels Pentium 4, Pentium D and most of its Xeon server chips. But its no longer considered competitive from a performance or power-consumption perspective, he said.
The Core 2, however, uses a new circuitry, dubbed Core Microarchitecture, enabling it to add performance and cut power. This has allowed Intel to become more competitive with AMD, following a period of market share loss and lackluster quarterly financials.
Intel unveiled a total of five new Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Duo Extreme chips, created for high-end desktops PCs, on July 27. The chips are sometimes referred to by their code name, "Conroe."
Available in systems immediately are dual-core Core 2 Duo E6300, E6400, E6600 and E6700 desktops chips. They run at speeds ranging from 1.86GHz to 2.66GHz and list for prices between $183 and $530.
A Core 2 Extreme X6800 processor, designed for jobs like gaming and corporate workstations, runs at 2.93GHz and lists for $999.
It will also offer five Core 2 Duo chips for notebooks—also known by their code-name "Merom"—that include models T5500, T5600, T7200, T7400 and T7600.
They range in speed from 1.66GHz to 2.33GHz. Intel did not release prices on July 27, however, because the chips wont hit the market in systems until August.
Still, Intel has set prices for most of the new chips at relatively low-levels. The Pentium D, the Core 2 Duos predecessor arrived at a top price of $637.
"Its pretty much a wake-up call. [Intel] hasnt been as competitive as it needs to be either from a performance or a pricing standpoint. They know it," said Richard Shim, analyst at IDC in San Mateo, Calif. "From the desktop side, its kind of catch-up for the company. But its something they have to do. Its something that they have to be aggressive with."
PC manufacturers including Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Gateway displayed aggressive prices on some of the first desktops to use the chips on July 27.