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MacBook Air uses future Intel miniaturization tech

updated 11:40 pm EST, Thu January 17, 2008

MacBook Air: special CPU

Apple's not only pushed the envelope with the industrial design of the MacBook Air, but also pushed Intel to deliver some advanced CPU technology, according to a new report. Rather than use Intel's newly introduced 45-nm Penryn mobile chips, the company used a modified version of current 65nm mobile chips with smaller packaging. According to Anandtech, the new MacBook Air uses a specialized version of Intel's Merom-based Core 2 Duo chip, the same chip used in Apple's other laptops (and from other PC vendors); however, it appears that the chip is actually uses technology originally slated to ship with its next-generation Montevina platform later this year.

According to the report, the CPU comes in a package that was originally reserved for mobile Penryn due out in the second half of 2008 -- using the Montevina SFF Centrino platform. Intel apparently accelerated the introduction of the packaging technology specifically for Apple, the report says.

While Intel was initially coy about the technology, a follow-up email from the company notes that the MacBook Air chip is not a low-voltage chip, but a specially made version of its standard Core 2 Duo.

"The MacBook Air uses the Intel Core 2 Duo Processor and Intel 965GMS chipset with integrated Gfx using a new miniaturized package technology," Intel explained. "This new CPU and chipset allows for approximately 60 percent reduction in total footprint. The Core 2 Duo Processor TDP is 20 watts. The Macbook Air is using existing Core 2 Duo technology with a lower voltage spec in a new miniaturized packaging design. It is not a ULV processor."

Thus the CPU and chipset are both using advanced packaging technology for a smaller footprint, while still using the current generation mobile Core 2 Duo chips (perhaps to save costs associated with the newer Penryn chips). Anandtech notes that the 1.6GHz chip in the MacBook Air runs at 1.0V - 1.25V, while the 1.8GHz version runs at 1.1125V - 1.25V -- both less than the standard mobile Core 2 Duo, but more voltage than the Low Voltage chips.

"The TDP of these not-quite-low-voltage Core 2s reflects the increased voltage," Anandtech writes. "While the L7700 and L7500 have a 17W TDP, the chips used in the MacBook Air are rated at 20W." Standard mobile Core 2 Duo chips are 35W parts.

While it's unclear why Apple's chose a modified version of the Merom Core 2 Duo chip rather than standard low-voltage parts, the report says the that an avoidable side-effect may be a hotter notebook.


"The bigger concern however has nothing to do with packaging technology or operating voltages, but overall thermals. The MacBook Pro runs very hot and while the 20W TDP of the MacBook Air is significantly lower than the 35W TDP of the Pro, it's high for such a small chassis," the site notes. "We won't know for sure how hot the Air will get until it's in our hands but the SSD route seems like an even better bet now that we know a little more about what we're dealing with. Cutting down heat in that thin chassis will be very important, and moving to solid state storage is the only real option you have there."




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. Monde

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    The exciting stuff

    The "Air" doesn't spin my wheels-too niché, but it bodes well for the future. With this new chip, it is conceivable and likely we'll soon see quad core macbook pros (17 inch?) The power drain is similar and though the clock speed is lower the quad calculations will easily leg out the current generation of core II duo chips on most pro apps. I wouldn't make a prediction as to when, but the pieces fit this particular puzzle. Exciting!

  1. telem

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Heat

    I ones I handled at Macworld didn't seem particularly warm. A terrific item, looking forward to the arrival of mine in a couple weeks.

  1. ZinkDifferent

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Good catch!

    aAgreed, monde -- by pushing for this kind of smaller, common CPU, it opens the door to place two of them into a MacBook Pro, for example - it also allows Apple to use the same chip, clocked higher, in MacBook and MacBook Pro for savings on multiple fronts.

  1. Monde

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    I can't be the only one

    I'm pretty sure, I'm not the only one who has thought of this, but I have yet to see any speculation on behalf of the usual Mac pundits. Bring on the quad core MBP!

  1. manleycreative

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    OH NO!!!

    Where's the floppy drive!!!

    They forgot the floppy drive!!!

  1. manleycreative

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    question

    How do you install the included DVDs if you don't already own another Mac on which to load up the disc share program?

    I always reformat my drive and partition it. I have another mac but…

  1. Clive

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Buy the external

    Buy an external drive in order to install you DVD system software on to an "Air".

    Is this something like the Emperor's New Clothes, selling thin "Air".

  1. rtbarry

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    as for heat...

    ...the ones at macworld that had been running as besieged demo machines all day did not feel hot to the touch at all. even on the direct bottom. and we're talking machines that had a non-stop line of person after person demo-ing.

    not as demanding as a long queue of video compression of a heavy day of photoshopping, but you shouldn't be buying this machine if that is your purpose.

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