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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  • Visual - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    Is it a bad sign that Acer rushed to release Timeline X with regular arrandales already?
    Or can we still expect a CULV-based version of their 3820, 4820 out soon?

    And actually... what would be the difference? I get it that they can squeeze some more battery life or reduce weight with smaller battery, even go with a whole new slimmer design... but by how much?

    And what about the price? I see you listed the price on a couple models, but with nothing to compare it to, I am left clueless. Are the CULVs considerably more expensive because of the stricter binning and the more specialized targeting, or are they cheaper because of the lower performance? The normal Arrandale Timeline X models are already much more expensive than the previous Timeline series, and I wonder if we can get a decrease soon.

    Lastly, have you heard of any plans for a tablet convertible by any manufacturer using these new CULVs? Granted, I have no qualms about the CPU in my current tm2 and I am more looking forward to updates that fix the display quality issues, I am still curious in any expected developments in this field.
  • taltamir - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    the "regular" arrendales consume a lot more power and are somewhat faster and cheaper than the CULV versions. They are better if you don't care how long the battery lasts, how much it weights, and want to pay less money. Expect them to live side by side, with the CULV offers being for those willing to pay more and sacrifice performance for extra battery and less weight.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    Intel only discloses pricing on certain CPUs; the ones without price information are sold direct to OEMs with varying pricing deals apparently. As far as size, I wouldn't expect the new Arrandale CULV laptops to be any smaller/thinner than current CULV, but they'll be smaller/thinner than current Arrandale. I expect we'll see the cheapest units (with the Celeron U3400) start at around $600, similar to most current CULV, though I could be off.

    As far as their use in tablets, if you means something close to the iPad I don't think they'll make it, but for convertible tablets they should work. Someone asked that question at the end of the webcast and Mooly Eden said "Tablets will require even smaller, lower power CPUs" but I think he was addressing the pure tablet (i.e. iPad) market space and not your laptop/tablet designs.
  • zac206 - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    I have been waiting for those processors since february. Just hope they keep their promise: good performance without sacrifying battery life. And if they are coupled with Optimus grafics you can have it all in a tiny laptop!
  • Pjotr - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    So they already scrapped the i7-640UM (1.2 GHz) and i7-620UM (1.06 GHz). I guess no laptop makers wanted to build machines with such low frequencies, as they have problems in performance when compared to Core 2 Duo CULV machines at much higher frequencies and pretty much the same power envelope.
  • stu.had - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    I'd love to see a roundup of low voltage laptops from amd and intel,
  • Zstream - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    I just purchased two laptops,one with a sp9300 and a su2300. Can we get a review of all the CULV processors including the new Arrandale? Oh, battery life would be awesome as well... or maybe just power consumption.
  • effortless - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    Thanks for finally leaving that awful shared mouse button, so that you can only apply weight on the far ends of them. I really appreciate that. Now if only Asus would have done the same, it'd be great, since their keyboard got isolated keys, while the Acer only got separated one attracting hair and crumbles. Additionally, Asus are more well built and receives less repair claims.

    Still... is it that hard to optimize everything?

    * Quality display - Less brightness, full RGB LED and good blacks and viewing angles (saves energy with less brightness, and you hardly need it THAT bright)
    * Automatic dimming - There should be some way to monitor your surrounding and dim the display accordingly.
    * Option for SSD - These discs draw way less power and perform way better. Most of us buy these laptops because they are portable, and do not need more than 80-120GB storage for documents etc.
    * Auto clocking - Invent a technology that allows your computer to power completely down when typing in a Word document for instance.
    * Trackpad MacBook Edition - Utilize the little space better
    * Slim fit - Do not add a lot of bulk on one part of the laptop. Make it completely even, and mount flat rubber feet on it, not mountain peeks.
    * Magnetic shutting mechanism - Use weak magnets to keep the lid shut. Once again a space saver.
    * Skip the VGA port - Include a HDMI-to-VGA port instead, as it's an old technology.
    * USB 3
  • effortless - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    Almost forgot! Add enough graphics power for full HD. Not that you'll utilize it that much on a 1366x768 display, but YouTube for instance got "1080p" which looks better, but lags.
  • effortless - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    And you might be inclined to say: sure, but that would cost a lot more. Well, yes it would. However, if it's only 20-30% more, then I'm more than willing to pay so.

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