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View Full Version : Macbook Air Revision D: Let's talk about possible high-end MBA Arrandale CPU spec




Jobsian
Dec 20, 2009, 06:10 PM
Quite a few possible next-gen-Air-related things have happened in the past few weeks.

-Rumors of Apple "rejecting" Arrandale, though it wasn't specified whether it was outright rejection or rejection of it in its current iteration (I'm looking at you Intel IGP!).

-Intel releasing more information on their Arrandales including a January 7 launch date - I think Intel mentioned several dozen processors will be available. Will one of them be an Apple-requested IGP-less die? Or even a custom CPU a la Rev A MBA (LV, not ULV, with 60% of the footprint)?

-Intel have also mentioned that the fantastic-looking Turbo Boost (http://www.intel.com/technology/turboboost/) function will not be on the Core i3 Arrandale processors, while it will be on the i5 and i7. Would an MBA form factor allow for Turbo Boost anyway?



Ok so likely possible max Arrandale Clock in a new Macbook Air. I'm going to make a few (probably over-simplistic) inferences:

The CPU TDP on the Rev C Macbook Air (Intel SL9600) is 17W
The Rev A CPU was 20W

So I imagine that a Macbook Air type of thermal envelope can handle 20W (though lower would be better as we're all aware of how hot the MBA can get!). Looking at a list of Arrandale specs from Wikipedia here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_future_Intel_microprocessors#.22Arrandale.22_.28ultra-low_voltage.3B_32_nm.29_2), it looks like the following Arrandales are within our TDP range:

Core i5-520UM
Ultra-Low Voltage
Frequency: 1.067GHz
Turbo: 2.13GHz
L3 Cache: 3MB
TDP: 18W
Release Date: January 7

Core i7-620UM
Ultra-Low Voltage
Frequency 1.067GHz
Turbo: 2.13 GHz
L3 Cache: 4MB
TDP: 18W
Release Date: "Q1 2010"

Core i7-640UM
Ultra-Low Voltage
Frequency: 1.2GHz
Turbo: 2.26GHz
L3 Cache: 4MB
TDP: 18W
Release Date: "Q1 2010"


That's it, all the other Arrandales (i3, i5 and i7) are Standard Voltage and are 35W...except for these 2:

Core i7-620LM
Low Voltage
Frequency: 2.0GHz
Turbo: 2.8GHz
L3 Cache: 4MB
TDP: 25W
Release Date: "Q1 2010"

Core i7-640LM
Low Voltage
Frequency: 2.13GHz
Turbo: 2.93GHz
L3 Cache: 4MB
TDP: 25W
Release Date: "Q1 2010"



Conclusions:
1) No Arrandale Core i3's seem to have a low enough TDP (all are 35W as far as I can tell), so it's going to be either Core i5 or Core i7.

2) If there is to be an Arrandale MBA refresh early in January, it looks like the only available CPU is Core i5-520UM, as it is the only one there with a definite January 7 release date - the rest are "Q1 2010".

So this processor will have a 1.067GHz clock, 2.13GHz Turbo and 3MB L3 Cache - ie half of the 6MB found on all current MBA CPUs. While the Turbo gives it the same clock as the Rev C MBA, the L3 Cache difference might be significant. I'm not certain what L3 Cache's technical function is, but I've been reading quite a few articles that allude to a significant difference in performance it makes in the MBA.

On the other hand, from what I've read Arrandale is a major architecture change so there appears to be a (modest) performance gain when comparing like-for-like 32nm Arrandale Vs 45nm Penryn clocks, though I don't have a percentage to hand.

3) If Apple's relationship with Intel gets them an early shipment of the other "Q1 2010" CPUs, I'm guessing the likely highest-spec one for a next-gen MBA will be the Core i7-640UM with its 1.2GHz clock, 2.26GHz Turbo and 4MB L3 Cache. Faster than the above CPU and 1MB more Cache. I imagine with this one we'd notice a speed bump over the current MBA Rev C when taxing the processor, and guessing cooler on idle.

4) My dream, less likely, scenario:
Apple have early shipment of the Core i7-640LM Arrandale with its 2.13GHz clock, 2.93GHz Turbo. Its 25W TDP is reduced by Intel removing the Intel IGP from it on Apple's request. It's TDP is further reduced by some customisation, again on Apple's request. Remember, Intel seemed to bend over backwards with the MBA Rev A custom CPU (eg they accelerated packaging technology that was being designed for the upcoming Penryn and used it on that MBA's Merom CPU to shrink the die).

And Apple also add a latest ATI mobility GDDR5 card :D



Here's hoping to no.4! Although I'd probably settle for no.2 and buy one on release day :)



coast1ja
Dec 20, 2009, 07:09 PM
Nice post!, very thorough and informative.

I really hope it's option 4. I can't see Apple offering something slower than the Rev. C. It just wouldn't make sense. I'll be really interested to see how the turbo feature actually works. Can we just have it at turbo speed all the time? Can it be disabled for long battery life?

andygabriel
Dec 21, 2009, 12:12 AM
Awesome thread! I was looking for more information on Arrandale and how it would affect the macbook air. Thx

I'm not a macbook Air user but i'm planning on selling my 2008 white macbook 2.4ghz C2D 4GB ram. I'm an average use but occasionally use imovie which i think the Rev C can handle easily! Tell me if i'm wrong.

So hoping that Rev D can be my main and only machine since i don't have a desktop and i take my laptop to work quite often.

I think the Air is an awesome machine but i read too many thread on how it overheats and it's just a fashion statement or an expensive notebook.

I really hope we get option 4. I'm willing to wait until Q2 2010 to get a more powerful(Rev E) if i have to. Just coz i don't need to machines and my only machine has to be powerful enough for my need(Web browsing, email, iLife, Office and iTunes).

i'm hoping for 4GB of Ram as well. Hope we get that in Rev D. Let's hope Rev D is faster than REv c. I don't think Apple will do an upgrade but make the machine slower than the previous model.

How about SSD. Do you think 320GB will be cheap enough for apple to put it in a REV D or E or they just gonna go with a 256GB?

Cheers

MacModMachine
Dec 21, 2009, 05:47 AM
Nice post!, very thorough and informative.

I really hope it's option 4. I can't see Apple offering something slower than the Rev. C. It just wouldn't make sense. I'll be really interested to see how the turbo feature actually works. Can we just have it at turbo speed all the time? Can it be disabled for long battery life?

slower?....who said it was slower?

it will be significantly faster then the 2.13.

coast1ja
Dec 21, 2009, 08:17 AM
slower?....who said it was slower?

it will be significantly faster then the 2.13.

Option 2. Same (max) clock, same number of cores, and half the cache... how could it possibly be faster?

kennycheng93
Dec 21, 2009, 01:34 PM
Intel integrated graphic???

Jobsian
Dec 23, 2009, 05:08 PM
Nice post!, very thorough and informative.

I really hope it's option 4. I can't see Apple offering something slower than the Rev. C. It just wouldn't make sense. I'll be really interested to see how the turbo feature actually works. Can we just have it at turbo speed all the time? Can it be disabled for long battery life?This is one of the things I actually can't wait to find out - exactly how the Turbo is going to fare up in real world application. Hopefully we'll find out in a Rev D Air!

Jobsian
Dec 23, 2009, 05:27 PM
So hoping that Rev D can be my main and only machine since i don't have a desktop and i take my laptop to work quite often.This is precisely why I'm holding off buying a current gen Mac, really want a Rev D that's powerful enough for a main machine, but also I hope it either keeps its current design or Apple design another at least as great looking as the current Air - unashamedly this aspect means a lot to me! I have to say Apple are kings of design.


I think the Air is an awesome machine but i read too many thread on how it overheatsAnother major reason why I've held off buying a current MBA. I'm really hoping the 32nm produces a difference. All laptops I buy must be Duvet-Ready :) (within reason of course!)


How about SSD. Do you think 320GB will be cheap enough for apple to put it in a REV D or E or they just gonna go with a 256GB?I'm not too hopeful for 320GB SSD quite yet, but for me personally it doesn't matter because even if they did put 320GB SSD (though I'm not certain there's a 1.8" SSD at 320GB yet, though there's a 1.8" HDD by Toshiba), it'll likely be a mid-range performer. The current SSDs used in the MBA/MBPs do the job but there are better ones there. I can't imagine Apple putting in a high performance SSD like Runcore or Intel or even one of those hyper-priced SLC SSD drives (my dream!).

Instead I'm hoping Apple use a more standard SSD connection (unlike their current awkward PATA-ZIF connectors) so that I can replace it with something like an x18-m etc.

awesomedeluxe
Dec 25, 2009, 10:34 AM
So this processor will have a 1.067GHz clock, 2.13GHz Turbo and 3MB L3 Cache - ie half of the 6MB found on all current MBA CPUs. While the Turbo gives it the same clock as the Rev C MBA, the L3 Cache difference might be significant. I'm not certain what L3 Cache's technical function is, but I've been reading quite a few articles that allude to a significant difference in performance it makes in the MBA.

3MB of L3 cache means 3 layers of 3MB cache, each layer is progressively slower. 6MB L2 cache is decisively better tech. That's small potatoes compared to the clock speed; a 1.2GHz ULV Arrandale still doesn't stand a chance against a 2.13GHz Penryn. New architecture does not a miracle make.

Your "dream" is a lot more likely if you forget about GDDR5. The coolest card sporting that would probably be the upcoming Park XT, which is still around 14W. Something like the Park LV 5430 makes a lot more sense, clocking in at about 7W. They could also just use the SV Arrandales; which have a higher clocked intel IGP that's probably bearable.

Jobsian
Dec 26, 2009, 06:35 AM
3MB of L3 cache means 3 layers of 3MB cache, each layer is progressively slower. 6MB L2 cache is decisively better tech. That's small potatoes compared to the clock speed; a 1.2GHz ULV Arrandale still doesn't stand a chance against a 2.13GHz Penryn. New architecture does not a miracle make.

Your "dream" is a lot more likely if you forget about GDDR5. The coolest card sporting that would probably be the upcoming Park XT, which is still around 14W. Something like the Park LV 5430 makes a lot more sense, clocking in at about 7W. They could also just use the SV Arrandales; which have a higher clocked intel IGP that's probably bearable.
Thanks for the L3 clarification, and yep the GDDR5 was more of a pipe dream :)

The clock speed question is an interesting one - the Arrandale 1.2GHz ULV Vs Penryn 2.13 GHz LV: Does the fact that the 1.2GHz Arrandale turbo to 2.26GHz have any bearing? I wonder if the 1.2GHz is the idle speed, but automatically boost to 2.26GHz when the 1.2GHz hits 100%? And what then is the bearing that has on the 2.13 Vs the 1.2 processors?

iMacmatician
Dec 26, 2009, 12:17 PM
The clock speed question is an interesting one - the Arrandale 1.2GHz ULV Vs Penryn 2.13 GHz LV: Does the fact that the 1.2GHz Arrandale turbo to 2.26GHz have any bearing? I wonder if the 1.2GHz is the idle speed, but automatically boost to 2.26GHz when the 1.2GHz hits 100%?That 2.27 GHz is for one core while the other is idle.

Jobsian
Dec 31, 2009, 07:16 PM
The more time passes, the more I hope that Apple use the Core i7-640LM on any possible upcoming new MBA, with its 2.13GHz, 2.93GHz Turbo.

It'll need tweaked in terms of TDP (25) but I'm hoping for no Intel GPU and possibly other tweaks (see above).

As Scottsdale has reiterated, a performance-hit on an upcoming MBA would also exclude me from buying it. However, I can't imagine the Tablet being too powerful and consequently, I'm guessing that Apple will want to differentiate the MBA well from the Tablet as a premium ultraportable that is more powerful than any others.

That is if they are making a next-gen MBA :)

Scottsdale
Dec 31, 2009, 11:20 PM
My initial understanding was that Arrandale W includes the IGP. Therefore, the 25W Core i7s you listed would be replacements for the SL9x00 CPUs paired with the Nvidia 9400m.

Now, the SL9x00 is 17W and the 9400m is 12W. That's 29W vs the Arrandale Core i7 at 25W including the IGP. That's a savings of 4W the way I see it.

Also count on Apple getting exactly the CPU they want for each Mac. Intel has commonly developed specific chips for Apple. It makes sense, think about the quantity of sales when you only ship two models of Macs and each has two or three different CPU options.

Now consider the CPU without the IGP like Apple may have ordered it. I assume it's going to be lower than 17W and add a dedicated graphics card and we will hope for 29W or less. Because, I wouldn't want an Arrandale Core i7 CPU or any other Core brand with an Intel IGP.

The worst part of this is if Apple accepts the Arrandale with IGP. Sure we save a little power, but we lose 50% of our graphics processing! And that's a loss from the 9400m... next gen Nvidia would surely be a notch above that. Any way you look, the Intel Arrandale with IGP is not a real solution in my eyes.

I am hopeful for either Arrandale less the IGP with a dedicated ATI/Nvidia solution OR Penryn with Nvidia GPU yet again. Honestly, Penryn with Nvidia is far superior to Arrandale with Intel IGP. In the end, I will be happy with a new MBA with the exact same Penryn CPU and a new Nvidia GPU, 4 GB RAM, SATA-II connection SSD, glass trackpad, and new tech display.

Jobsian
Jan 1, 2010, 05:18 AM
Great post Scott, I didn't even factor in the 9400m TDP! I'm a lot more hopeful for the above Core i7, hopefully with Apple-requested modification. It's the Intel IGP and the 50% performance hit against Nvidia's >1 year old 9400m that I'm concerned about and will probably be the deal-breaker for me with regards to a next MBA.

Scottsdale
Jan 1, 2010, 06:39 PM
Great post Scott, I didn't even factor in the 9400m TDP! I'm a lot more hopeful for the above Core i7, hopefully with Apple-requested modification. It's the Intel IGP and the 50% performance hit against Nvidia's >1 year old 9400m that I'm concerned about and will probably be the deal-breaker for me with regards to a next MBA.

I am with you. I am fine with good ole Penryn Core 2 Duo and an Nvidia 120m or whatever they're calling the successor to the 9400m. OR, even better the IGP less Arrandale with an ATI dedicated solution. Arrandale with Intel IGP equals the end of my MBA love/lust affair.

Happy New Year.

Anonymous Freak
Jan 7, 2010, 05:48 PM
-Rumors of Apple "rejecting" Arrandale, though it wasn't specified whether it was outright rejection or rejection of it in its current iteration (I'm looking at you Intel IGP!).

4) My dream, less likely, scenario:
Apple have early shipment of the Core i7-640LM Arrandale with its 2.13GHz clock, 2.93GHz Turbo. Its 25W TDP is reduced by Intel removing the Intel IGP from it on Apple's request. It's TDP is further reduced by some customisation, again on Apple's request. Remember, Intel seemed to bend over backwards with the MBA Rev A custom CPU (eg they accelerated packaging technology that was being designed for the upcoming Penryn and used it on that MBA's Merom CPU to shrink the die).

And Apple also add a latest ATI mobility GDDR5 card :D

I can't see the custom CPU. Arrandale is a single 'chip' with two separate dice onboard. One is the 32 nm CPU core. The other is a 45 nm memory controller, GPU, PCIe hub. Essentially, Intel went and took the previous generation "GM45" chipset, did a die-shrink, swapped front side bus for QPI, and slapped it on the same physical package as a die-shrunk, stripped down Bloomfield. The graphics is a slight improvement over GM45, but not significantly so. And since the memory controller and PCIe interface is on that second GPU-sharing die, they can't just leave that chip off. They can't even use a cut-down version of any other current chipsets, because they either use a different interface (G45 uses conventional front-side-bus; X58 uses QPI, but doesn't have a memory controller, as that's supposed to be on the CPU; PM55 uses DMI, which means the CPU is expected to have the memory controller and PCIe controller.)

At best, they'd give Apple Arrandales with the GPU fused off, so they don't draw more than a slight trickle of power. But then we're still at the three-chip solution adding an external GPU that sucks up likely more power than the onboard. And since the Air isn't meant to be a powerhouse, the onboard GPU is probably considered "good enough", especially with OpenCL support, so they can offload some processing to the GPU. (And, because of the way Arrandale balances power between CPU and GPU, if you're doing some that is GPU intensive, but not CPU intensive, it will lower the speed of the CPU, and increase the GPU.)

As for discrete GPU, I really hope they don't go for X1000-series. Those are now ancient, with no OpenCL support. ATI has relatively low power Radeon HD4000-series parts (the 4330, for example,) and nVidia has similar "fairly recent" parts, in the GeForce 1xxM and 2xxM lines.

Of course, Arrandale supports GPU switching, just like GM45 chipset did. If Apple, Intel, and AMD and/or nVidia get their act together and properly implement GPU switching in OS X, we could see both the Arrandale onboard plus a lowish-power discrete GPU. (Although I think this is significantly more likely on the MacBook Pro, where Apple has experience with it, even if it is solely with the all-nVidia 9400/9600 switch.)

Scottsdale
Jan 8, 2010, 11:51 AM
I can't see the custom CPU. Arrandale is a single 'chip' with two separate dice onboard. One is the 32 nm CPU core. The other is a 45 nm memory controller, GPU, PCIe hub. Essentially, Intel went and took the previous generation "GM45" chipset, did a die-shrink, swapped front side bus for QPI, and slapped it on the same physical package as a die-shrunk, stripped down Bloomfield. The graphics is a slight improvement over GM45, but not significantly so. And since the memory controller and PCIe interface is on that second GPU-sharing die, they can't just leave that chip off. They can't even use a cut-down version of any other current chipsets, because they either use a different interface (G45 uses conventional front-side-bus; X58 uses QPI, but doesn't have a memory controller, as that's supposed to be on the CPU; PM55 uses DMI, which means the CPU is expected to have the memory controller and PCIe controller.)

At best, they'd give Apple Arrandales with the GPU fused off, so they don't draw more than a slight trickle of power. But then we're still at the three-chip solution adding an external GPU that sucks up likely more power than the onboard. And since the Air isn't meant to be a powerhouse, the onboard GPU is probably considered "good enough", especially with OpenCL support, so they can offload some processing to the GPU. (And, because of the way Arrandale balances power between CPU and GPU, if you're doing some that is GPU intensive, but not CPU intensive, it will lower the speed of the CPU, and increase the GPU.)

As for discrete GPU, I really hope they don't go for X1000-series. Those are now ancient, with no OpenCL support. ATI has relatively low power Radeon HD4000-series parts (the 4330, for example,) and nVidia has similar "fairly recent" parts, in the GeForce 1xxM and 2xxM lines.

Of course, Arrandale supports GPU switching, just like GM45 chipset did. If Apple, Intel, and AMD and/or nVidia get their act together and properly implement GPU switching in OS X, we could see both the Arrandale onboard plus a lowish-power discrete GPU. (Although I think this is significantly more likely on the MacBook Pro, where Apple has experience with it, even if it is solely with the all-nVidia 9400/9600 switch.)

Apple is obviously going after a graphics solution that takes advantage of OpenCL. The whole point of the Snow Leopard OS is to take advantage of the power within the GPU and CPU. They're not going to totally abandon OpenCL and revert back to just an Intel IGP. It's either going to be a dual selection allowing to choose between Intel IGP and dedicated chip or just the dedicated graphics. Obviously the point would be to prolong battery when away from power source.

Other Ultraportables out there are using ATI dedicated graphics for a nice solution. I have thought about this long and hard, and Apple will either go with Nvidia or ATI. It simply cannot go so far backwards as the Intel solution; it just makes no sense to cave in and solely use an Intel IGP. Whether Apple gets an Arrandale without the IGP or it just uses the dedicated solution is the only thing that remains to be seen... if it even uses Arrandale. Plenty of computer manufacturers are using Arrandale and dedicated without their own IGP-less CPU. Apple DOES get special treatment because they order in high quantities of a few CPUs. The MBA has only two CPU options. The MBP only has six (maybe fewer) between all the models. This level of ordering definitely warrants specific CPUs for Apple.

I think conventional Apple wisdom is that the Core 2 Duo is plenty of CPU for OS X. I will not be shocked to see the same SL9x00 CPUs with an Nvidia GPU like the 105m. I am not stating that Apple will continue to use Penryn but that it's one of two likely possibilities.

Shodan
Jan 8, 2010, 12:03 PM
The performance increments in the Core i5/i7 architecture is not enough to justify brand new chips to be engineered for super-protables.

I would rather a high quality Penryn chip clocked around 1.8GHz and optimised enough to keep at those clocks when under heavy load than a scorching Core i5/i7.

That, coupled with a Mobile Radeon HD4300/ HD4500 this would make a brilliant combo.

In the future, I would prefer Apple to move over to AMD when Fusion has been finalised.

Intel's monopolising business actions and lazy progress do not deserve the light of day imho.

Scottsdale
Jan 8, 2010, 09:40 PM
The performance increments in the Core i5/i7 architecture is not enough to justify brand new chips to be engineered for super-protables.

I would rather a high quality Penryn chip clocked around 1.8GHz and optimised enough to keep at those clocks when under heavy load than a scorching Core i5/i7.

That, coupled with a Mobile Radeon HD4300/ HD4500 this would make a brilliant combo.

In the future, I would prefer Apple to move over to AMD when Fusion has been finalised.

Intel's monopolising business actions and lazy progress do not deserve the light of day imho.

The thing is that 32nm architecture Arrandale uses less power. It's just with all of the chips, Intel is forcing Intel IGP. This is not going to fly long-term because it's anti-competitive. However, Intel is going to roll with it until it loses a court case, and ultimately it will lose; until then it's more money!

I want Arrandale. I also want graphics performance like we're used to using in the MBA, so I really hope Apple gets custom chips. Second solution is Penryn with Nvidia. Last, and an MBA I will not buy, is Arrandale with only the Intel IGP.

XboxMySocks
Jan 8, 2010, 10:42 PM
Core i7-640LM
Low Voltage
Frequency: 2.13GHz
Turbo: 2.93GHz
L3 Cache: 4MB
TDP: 25W
Release Date: "Q1 2010"


I would buy a MBA with these specs if it were <$1600-1700
(I'd like to point out I'm aware the MBA is already like $1499)

Scottsdale
Jan 8, 2010, 11:25 PM
Originally Posted by Jobsian
Core i7-640LM
Low Voltage
Frequency: 2.13GHz
Turbo: 2.93GHz
L3 Cache: 4MB
TDP: 25W
Release Date: "Q1 2010"

I would buy a MBA with these specs if it were <$1600-1700
(I'd like to point out I'm aware the MBA is already like $1499)

Well, I think you will be disappointed. I see a higher price tag if the form factor changes, and I really believe the info leads to an entirely new MBA. Although maybe will fit well within your pricing hopes if the form factor is retained.

XboxMySocks
Jan 9, 2010, 10:39 AM
Well, I think you will be disappointed. I see a higher price tag if the form factor changes, and I really believe the info leads to an entirely new MBA. Although maybe will fit well within your pricing hopes if the form factor is retained.
Honestly, I can shell out for more if I really need one. But obviously I'd prefer the indicated price range.