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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  • Spacecomber - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    I know that we are perhaps past the time for this, but I'd be curious how the Pentium M stacked up against its replacement, the Core Solo. It might shed some light on the roots for the Core line of processors. Reply
  • ksherman - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    I for one hope Apple pops these babies in the MacBook as well as the MacBook Pro. I have been reading a lot of rumors suggesting that Apple will only put Merom in the Pro model at first... Seems kinda goofy, since they purchase processors in *relatively* low quantity. Ive got my eye on the MacBook, so any performance increase with no price premium is always a plus, and I do plan on doing a lot of video editing/rendering Reply
  • mlittl3 - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    I'm waiting for the third revision of the Macbook Pro in the middle of next year. By this revision most of the problems with the new designs should be ironed out and these notebooks will probably be based on the Santa Rosa platform (800 MHz FSB). Right now I have a 1.5 GHz G4 Powerbook and it does what I need. I will upgrade to the Macbook Pro 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo (Merom) on the Santa Rosa platform. If you like your notebook right now, I would wait until then. This would give you the most stability and bump in performance in the near future. Expect the third revision sometime next summer. Reply
  • mlittl3 - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    To be more clear:

    First Revision - Macbook Pro 2.16 GHz Core Duo 667 MHz FSB 2 MB (1Q 2006)
    Second Revision - Macbook Pro 2.33 GHz Core 2 Duo 667 MHz FSB 4 MB (3Q 2006?)
    Third Revision - Macbook Pro 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo 800 MHz FST 4 MB (2Q 2007?)
    Reply
  • AndrewChang - Sunday, August 06, 2006 - link

    Santa Rosa... At the earliest? I mean, I supose with the Core 2 Duo being 'crippled' by a slow(er) FSB, it might be worth the wait. But what do you think Anand means by, at the earliest?

    Whats next after Santa Rosa? Does he know something we don't know? Well, thats a given, but now I'm sketched out about all this... Should we expect some early adopter problems with the introduction of this newfangled Robson technology? God, for a hardware enthusiast, who would've thought that making a new hardware purchase could be so tough. All I want is the fastest performing Merom/Leopard based Macbook Pro available. Am I really going to have to wait until at least Santa Rosa next year? It's going to be a long wait...
    Reply
  • Olaf van der Spek - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Our final battery life test centers around wireless internet browsing, and thus we could only test the three Compaqs in this roundup that featured built in wireless.


    What three Compaqs?
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    Didn't you see the three compaqs in the review? ;)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • yacoub - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    now this is a test i can totally appreciate: everything is identical except the CPU, so you get to see what the REAL WORLD benefit of changing the CPU is in your REAL WORLD system that people might actually buy/own. ie, instead of maxing everything else out with parts 99% of people don't buy / can't afford.

    of course the result is that you see that the real world difference is only noticeable in some situations and with some programs. but hey, that's the reality of it and actually it's easy to see that since the pricing is comparable and all else the same, it's a decent upgrade and certainly a level of future-proofing as well.
    Reply
  • jones377 - Thursday, August 03, 2006 - link

    It was interesting to compare the numbers in this review with the previous Core 2 Duo desktop review where 2MB vs 4MB L2 cache was examined (although at 1,83GHz/1066)

    http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...">http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...

    Its not a perfect comparison but from what I can gather, there are significant improvements performance wise coming from the core, even in the non-FP/SSE related benchmarks. A favorite argument among some people is that the extra cache makes all the difference, I hope this will shut them up! (tho I really doubt it)
    Reply
  • iollmann - Tuesday, September 26, 2006 - link


    In SSE code, I see close to a factor of 2 performance increase from Yonah to Merom much of the time. These benchmarks are depressing. The improvement should be better than what we see. Does no one vectorize?
    Reply

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