Today, Intel launched a new evolution of the Centrino mobile platform: Santa Rosa.
Designed around the new i965 chipset, it brings on the chipset side the upgrade from FSB667 to FSB800, the support of SATA 3 Gbits/s and an evolution of the integrated graphic chip to the version M. Compared to the GMA X3000, the frequency increases from 400 to 500 MHz, the precision from FP24 to FP32 and Intel announced to have improved the post processing video algorithms gathered under the denomination ClearVideo. Of course for 3D performances and because of the low results of the GMA X3000, the maximum we could expect from the X3100 is to support the Aero interface of Vista.
For processors, FSB800 is the new standard and with the T7700, the frequency reached will be of 2.4 GHz instead of 2.33 GHz at best for the previous version. Like the T7500 and T7300, which are at 2.2 and 2 GHz, this CPU has 4 MB of L2 cache. The T7100 at 1.8 GHz, however, only has 2 MB. These models have a TDP of 35 Watts, but low power consumption versions, L7500 and L7300 at 1.6 and 1.4 GHz, have a TDP of 17 watts. The processors of the T line include the Dynamic Acceleration technology which is designed to accelerate mono-thread applications: one core is set in standby in mode C3 while the other core beneficiate from an acceleration of 200 MHz without increasing the TDP. Additionally to these new evolutions, Intel has cut prices and the T7700 (2.4 GHz) is now at $530, instead of $637 for the T7600 at 2.33 GHz. The T7300 (2 GHz) is at the same price as the T5600, or $241.
As for the WiFi, Intel chose the 4965AGN controller. Launched in the beginning of the year, this controller is MIMO and is based on the preliminary version 1.0 of the 802.11n norm. One possible problem here is that it isn't certain that products based on this norm will be compatible with the final version of 802.11n. Even if the program « Connect With Centrino » has been developed with Asus, Belkin, Buffalo, D-Link and Netgear to ensure optimum performances with this controller, it will be imperative to verify the compatibility of hardware components to beneficiate from the higher performances announced: twice the range and five times the bandwidth of the previous generation. One chip without preliminary 802.11, the 4965AG, is also sold by Intel. Hard wire network is also taken in charge by Intel. The Intel 82566 is of Gigabit type and it is possible to suppress the power allocated to this chip once the cable is disconnected or switch automatically to 10/100 when the laptop is on battery.
The other innovation of the Santa Rosa is the Intel Turbo Memory. It consists in integrating to the laptop 512 MB to 1 GB of flash memory interfaced via the PCI Express bus. With this technology it is possible to use Vista's ReadyDrive and ReadyBoost technologies which use flash memory as buffer memory for writing but also for data detected as being the most requested by SuperFetch. This allows high performances and better autonomy. These aren't the only functionalities of Santa Rosa that are designed for the reduction of the power consumption. The WiFi Controller is announced as requiring 20% less energy and the low power consumption mode for low level of use of chipsets and CPU is also improved. For the GMA X3100, we have noted the support of D²PO panels (interlaced), the version 3 of the DSPT (automatic brightness adjustment) and the DRRS function that automatically reduce to 50 HZ or 40 Hz the refreshing rate of monitors. In the end, the improvements are inferior to 2 Watts, but this isn't negligible in the world of laptops.
In the end, this new Centrino is far from being revolutionary but the evolutions are going in the right direction. The integration of a pre-version of the 802.11n is questionable all the more that it is only optional. Wouldn't it have been preferable for an actor such as Intel to wait for the final version of the norm to avoid interoperability issues?