While the world has been focused on the launch of Intel's desktop Core 2 Duo, codenamed Conroe, Intel has been readying its mobile counterpart also called Core 2 Duo.  With only a few changes to its desktop counterpart -- mainly its lower clock speeds and FSB frequency and thus lower power -- there's no reason to call the mobile version anything but Core 2 Duo. 

There hasn't been much interest in Core 2 Duo on the mobile side for two major reasons; for starters, unlike on the desktop, Intel already had a very competent mobile CPU - the Yonah based Core Duo processor.  Seeing as how Core Duo is the predecessor to Core 2 Duo, you can already expect that Intel's current mobile performance is quite good. 

The other major reason there's not much hype surrounding Core 2 Duo in notebooks is because there's simply not the level of competition from AMD that we had on the desktop.  While AMD's Turion 64 and Turion 64 X2 are good processors, you simply can't find them in nearly enough notebooks, and definitely not in as unique packages as you can find Intel's Core Solo and Core Duo processors.  AMD is hoping to rectify this situation by both working on a lower power mobile CPU architecture and acquiring ATI to help complete its platform offering on the mobile side. 

Without tough competition from AMD, and with an already excellent platform, there's simply no reason to get excited about Core 2 Duo on the mobile side; we're quite content as is.  But with mobile Core 2 Duo processors priced identically to Core Duo processors, there's no reason to complain.  Intel isn't asking for any more money, leaving us with two questions: how much more performance are we getting, and what happens to battery life?  

It's those two questions that we'll be answering here today, hopefully giving recent purchasers of Core Duo notebooks a reason to kick themselves or breathe a sigh of relief. 

New Processor, Old Centrino

Before we get to talking about Core 2 Duo in notebooks, it's worth mentioning that Intel's Centrino marketing won't change with the introduction of the new processors.  Although Centrino has taken a virtual backseat to Core 2 in recent months, the rules still remain unchanged.  In order for an OEM to be able to call its notebook a Centrino or Centrino Duo it needs to meet the following requirements:

  CPU Chipset Networking

Centrino

Intel Core Solo or Pentium M

Mobile Intel 945 GM/PM/GMS

Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG

Centrino Duo

Intel Core Duo or Core 2 Duo

Mobile Intel 945 GM/PM/GMS

Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG

 

Being able to sell a notebook as a Centrino or Centrino Duo is particularly important as Intel has invested a lot of money into the brand; in theory, the Centrino label should help sell your notebook better than without it.  From Intel's perspective, the Centrino platform ensures that each OEM has to buy three pieces of Intel silicon instead of just one.  Now you can see why AMD wants to get into the chipset market with ATI. 

The important takeaway point from the above table is that Centrino Duo notebooks can use either Core Duo or Core 2 Duo processors. There's no additional branding designation if your Centrino Duo notebook comes with a Core 2 processor. 

Backwards Compatibility

Intel's Core 2 Duo mobile launch is one of those very rare moments in Intel history where a brand new CPU is introduced and it is backwards compatible with existing motherboards. 

If you've got a Core Duo notebook with a PGA Socket-M interface, all you should need is a BIOS update and a Core 2 Duo CPU to upgrade your notebook.  If you've got a BGA CPU, then you're unfortunately out of luck as desoldering 479 balls from your motherboard without damaging it isn't for the faint of heart. 

Obviously there are some caveats, and you'll want to check with your notebook manufacturer to make sure it supports Core 2 Duo on your particular model before upgrading.  As far as Intel is concerned, the only stipulations for Core 2 Duo support are on the chipset side and are as follows:

 CPU 945GM 945GMS 945PM 940GML

Core 2 Duo

Supported

Not Supported

Supported

Not Supported

Low Voltage Core 2 Duo

Supported

Supported

Supported

Not Supported

Ultra Low Voltage Core 2 Duo

Supported

Supported

Supported

Not Supported

 

If you've got a 945GM or 945PM equipped notebook, then the Core 2 Duo should be a drop in replacement for your Core Duo processor.  The upcoming Low Voltage and Ultra Low Voltage Core 2 Duo processors will also work in the 945GMS chipset, and none of them will work in the 940GML chipset. 

Model Numbers Galore
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  • juanpoh - Friday, August 04, 2006 - link

    Looking at http://www.intel.com/products/processor/pentiumm/i...">Intel Pentium M link, only 915 and 855 chipset is supported. However 945 chipset is listed as supported in http://www.intel.com/products/processor/celeron_m/...">Intel Celeron M link. Reply
  • jaybuffet - Friday, August 04, 2006 - link

    I have the nx9420 notebook with the 945pm chipset... i was on hp support yesterday, and they said they would not support upgrading the CPU.. does that mean i am SOL because they wont upgrade the BIOS to support it? Reply
  • Pjotr - Friday, August 04, 2006 - link

    Please correct the percentage numbers on http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...">http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...

    "17.5% increase in performance" -> "17.5 % less time used" OR "21.3 % increaase in performance"

    Same mistake for all other time based benchmarks.
    Reply
  • shecknoscopy - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    Given the nearly identical architectures of the desktop Conroes and the new Merom chips - how well do all of you think the two would stack up in a direct side-by-side comparison? This is open to blatant conjecture, of course, as the necessary hardware to <b>really</b> make a single-variable experiment isn't out there. But for those of us considering mobile-on-desktop options, how much of a performance cut would we see jumping from a Conroe to a Merom? Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Saturday, August 05, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Given the nearly identical architectures of the desktop Conroes and the new Merom chips - how well do all of you think the two would stack up in a direct side-by-side comparison? This is open to blatant conjecture, of course, as the necessary hardware to <b>really</b> make a single-variable experiment isn't out there. But for those of us considering mobile-on-desktop options, how much of a performance cut would we see jumping from a Conroe to a Merom?


    Intel mentioned something about having different prefetchers that match the market, meaning Woodcrest's Prefetchers are fit for workstation/server, Conroe for desktop, Merom for mobile applications(performance/battery life).

    If you look at Core Extreme X6800 vs. Core 2 Duo E6700 benchmarks, you can see that in some reviews the differences are greater than the 267MHz clock difference(10% clock difference). Maybe Core Extreme has superior prefetchers to the Core 2 Duos, giving advantage in select few applications.
    Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    This was the exact question I just signed on to ask....so I await and answer as well. Reply
  • shecknoscopy - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    Woohoo! Great minds think alike, eh? Also, so do ours! Reply
  • JackPack - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    Which stepping did you use in this test? B1? Reply
  • EagleEye - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    I think the asus barebones configuration is mislabeled in this article. The s96j has the WXGA 1280x 800 screen while the z96j has the WSXGA 1680x 1050 screen. They either had an s96j or the native resolution is wrong as they stated it. Reply
  • Kalessian - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    I noticed that, too. Reply

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