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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  • Sergio710 - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    I've heard that Merom would come to 45 nm some day, does anyone know more about it ?

    supposed date ?
    impact on battery life ?
    Reply
  • mino - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    All CPU series wiil go 45nm. Eventually.

    AFAIK don't expect 45nm Core 2's sooner that Q108.
    Reply
  • Sergio710 - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    Forgive my ignorance, but what benefit will have 64 bits for every day use ?

    better performances on Vista or enabled soiftware or only the possibility to install more RAM ?
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, August 04, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Forgive my ignorance, but what benefit will have 64 bits for every day use ?

    better performances on Vista or enabled soiftware or only the possibility to install more RAM ?
    Longevity will be the benefit.

    It's not helpful right now, but if you're like me, you'd keep a notebook computer for some time before getting rid of it. I buy as future-proof (since that isn't possible, future-resistant) as I can. That means I'd want a 64-bit capable processor so that I can run the 64-bit version of Vista at some point, and so that I have the option of going to 4GB of RAM on my notebook some day. Since Merom prices are the equivalent of Yonah prices, this makes even more sense --it wouldn't cost me any more.
    Reply
  • Pandaren - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    Right now, there is no benefit. Unless you are running Linux. 64-bit is completely useless for most people until Microsoft gets it together and finishes Windows Vista. Reply
  • peternelson - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    I agree I was thinking of 64 bit linux and technical apps like rendering.

    However there is possible option on XP64 professional. eg if you want to do trial factoring for mersenne.org prime number project, running the 64 bit client gives a big boost over 32 bit version.

    I hope 64 bit becomes more mainstream (not just nerds) when Vista 64 is available.

    In ideal world: boot linux64 and Vista64 or virtualise one with the other.

    As a bonus if you can throw in a 64 bit version of a new Mac OS for a triple OS environment, that would be just what the doctor ordered.

    At the moment I can live without the Apple support, so linux/vista will be fine. ie Linux for serious work, Vista for 3D gaming.
    Reply
  • jeffwegher - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    Isn't another advantage of the new Merom that it's 64-bit whereas the older Yonah is only 32-bit? Reply
  • peternelson - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    He stole my comment, but ABSOLUTELY.

    A major disadvantage of Core Solo and Duo (as in Yonah) was that it's 32 bit ONLY.
    For that reason I won't buy a laptop or apple mac based around it.
    Merom (Core 2 Duo) IS 64 bit capable and that's important to me. It's the MOST important feature of this upgrade, second most important is virtualisation.

    I hope Apple wake up and start sticking Meroms into their desktop and notebook macs real soon.

    Also anandtech you don't mention that very point, using a so-called mobile cpu in a desktop SFF which is a market predicted to grow.

    This has to be another big market for Merom cpu: space saving home systems, media centres etc.

    As for all the hype about how much better this new generation architecture is, I have to say the performance jump of 2-5-10-15-20% is mediocre compared to what might have been expected if the reality lived up to the hype. Thanks anandtech for setting the record straight. On the other hand ANY performance increase for no extra battery usage has to be welcome. You're right that the FSB constraint limits it in today's machines.

    It's good they are priced similarly although in the market I expect manufacturers to charge a premium in the short term.

    How quickly will Apple be adopting this in their small desktop machines?
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Saturday, August 05, 2006 - link

    quote:

    As for all the hype about how much better this new generation architecture is, I have to say the performance jump of 2-5-10-15-20% is mediocre compared to what might have been expected if the reality lived up to the hype. Thanks anandtech for setting the record straight. On the other hand ANY performance increase for no extra battery usage has to be welcome. You're right that the FSB constraint limits it in today's machines.

    It's good they are priced similarly although in the market I expect manufacturers to charge a premium in the short term.

    How quickly will Apple be adopting this in their small desktop machines?


    Actually you are in your own reality to expect greater advantage than that over Core Duo. If you have been actually paying attention, Intel expects 20% advantage for Core 2 Duo 2.33GHz over Core Duo 2.167GHz. Core 2 Duo's performance advantage of 40% applies against Pentium D, which is worse performer than Core Duo.

    Not to mention Core 2 Duo in Laptop has same FSB, same memory, same chipset as Core Duo!!
    Reply
  • Pandaren - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    Intel claimed all along a 40% performance jump relative to Pentium D, NOT Core Duo. The performance jump relative to Core Duo was always claimed as "up to 20%," which is in line with Anandtech's findings. Reply

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