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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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    I'm pretty sure all of the Intel HD Graphics laptops can handle 1080p... I'm going to try YouTube quick to see what happens (with the Flash 10.1 RC5); it looks like the latest Intel drivers should handle 1080p with CULV and 4500MHD, as well as all the new Intel HD Graphics laptops.

    A quick test shows an i3-330M with Intel HD handling Avatar 1080p YouTube (on a 2048x1152 external LCD) with no issues whatsoever. Doing the same test with a CULV SU4100 + 4500MHD gets about 15FPS with plenty of frame drops, though it's "watchable". So as best as I can tell, 1080p YouTube doesn't work without dropping frames on CULV + 4500MHD (yet).
  • Mr Perfect - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    I'd be curious to know how the different CPUs effect the IGP. At what point in the line do you become CPU limited instead of GPU limited? Will the i7 be over kill? Does the Celeron hold the graphics back? Being able to play Diablo2 on a seven hour plane trip would be great, but less so if it requires the most expensive model.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    I'd say that the graphics are the limiting factor for most 3D games, but something like Diablo 2 is old enough that it will run fine on any i3/i5/i7 processor. The Intel HD Graphics are close to ATI HD 3200 in performance, and that means you generally start to become GPU limited when the CPU is dual-core 1.5GHz (give or take depending on architecture).
  • Mr Perfect - Wednesday, May 26, 2010 - link

    Hmm. If that holds true, then hopefully the i5-430UM is all the IGP needs to keep from being CPU bound. That's probably still a $200 part though.
  • 8steve8 - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    Could someone give a list of the laptops shown in the gallery?

    I'm curious about the 2nd photo , it's an asus, but not the same asus as photo #3.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    I've added captions; the second is the ASUS UL30 and the third is the UL80. The last laptop is of unknown manufacturer.
  • Voo - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    Ah I really hope we'll see some laptops with good build quality (oh please some good LCDs, I'd really pay a premium for that), small formfactor, good CPU performance and a IGP that at most needs to be able to decode 1080p video (I could live without that, but HW accelerated flash should make that easily doable).
    I really don't need a GPU for anything I'd want to do with my laptop, but that doesn't mean I want some cheap laptop..
  • Hrel - Sunday, May 30, 2010 - link

    Okay Asus, Sony, Compal; pay attention! I want a 15" laptop with one of these CPU's; i5 with i7 upgrade option. An AMD 5650 GPU, a 500GB seagate Momentus XT HDD. 4-8GB of RAM, HDMI out, and a screen with a resolution of 1600x900 with 1080p upgrade option. If someone can offer me a laptop like that, built with no OS included for about a thousand bucks I'm pretty sure I'd pull the trigger. Though I really do want to wait for all the USB ports to be USB 3.0.

    P.S. Not necessary, but it'd be nice if the CPU was overclocked to 2GHz or higher; Asus proved in the last CULV CPU's that the overclock pretty well.
  • Hrel - Monday, June 7, 2010 - link

    If someone could do a review on the laptop that I currently suspect is the best "bang for your buck" out there. It's made by compal, and available on who's machines you've reviewed before. If you'd like it configured like I did, which I think is the best bang for buck, do this: Go to the website. mouse over 15.6" Laptops and click on the $999 Xplorer X6-8500. It has a 1080p screen. (I'm not sure why the people who run this site do this, but even though the other configurations use the same chassis when personalized they come out to cost more than this one; annoying since it makes me configure all 3 or 4 machines built on the same base chassis to figure out which one is cheapest/best for me.) Then I configured it with the Core i7-620M CPU. (to get it over 1K so I can take advantage of the 5% off.) 4GB 0DDR3-1333, hopefully 7-7-7-21, probably not, but hopefully. ATI MR HD5650 1GB GDDR3 320GB 7200rpm HDD (I did this cause I'm gonna take that HDD out and use the Seagate Momentus XT 500GB, thanks for that review!!) Everything else on that page I left untouched. The only thing I did on page 2 was switch to Intel wifi with bluetooth; Though I'm curious if the MSI option is equal/better; 17 bucks isn't nothing. It has HDMI out and a fingerprint reader. This page says 3 USB ports, the specs sheet says 4USB ports; not sure which is true. (I do wish they were USB 3.0 ports, but I was hoping you guys would test some stuff and tell me if that even matters for use with an external hard drive, mechanical disk 7200rpm. Transferring large files like movies and games mostly.) On page 3 I select "none, format only" for the OS. And select "LCD perfect assurance" cause even 1 dead pixel is unacceptable to me. This brings the total to $1008.90 after 5% off, or $992.75 if you get the MSI network card. So yeah, I really hope you guys can get a hold of one of these for review; as a loner or given as a review unit or maybe someone will just buy one and review it cause it's really tempting me right now... like a lot! If you're review is good I'm gonna start saving up and hopefully be able to buy it around Christmas. Thanks guys! A loyal reader. - Brian

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