Intel Arrandale: 32nm for Notebooks, Core i5 540M Reviewedby Anand Lal Shimpi on January 4, 2010 12:00 AM EST
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From the balanced notebook perspective, Arrandale is awesome. Battery life doesn't improve, but performance goes up tremendously. The end result is better performance for hopefully the same power consumption. If you're stuck with an aging laptop it's worth the wait. If you can wait even longer we expect to see a second rev of Arrandale silicon towards the middle of the year with better power characteristics. Let's look at some other mobile markets, though.
If what you're after is raw, unadulterated performance, there are still faster options. We compared Arrandale with a Core 2 Duo P8700, and performance went up. If you already have something with a Core i7-720QM (or other i7 part) or a Core 2 Quad, the performance figures aren't nearly so rosy. The catch is that battery life on quad-core CPUs, frankly, stinks. Most of the time, you're lucky to get over 90 minutes of battery life in light loads. For those looking at mobile performance, Clarksfield is still the winner (or grab a desktop Core i7 notebook).
We are also missing something to replace the ultra-long battery life offered by the Core 2 Ultra Low Voltage (CULV) parts. True, Intel has some low voltage 18W TDP parts running at 1.06GHz to 1.20GHz stock (Turbo up to 1.86GHz to 2.26GHz depending on the model), but the current results suggest that CULV + GS45 is still going to be far more compelling for those interested in battery life while maintaining some level of performance, or you can go with Pine Trail/Pineview (Atom N450) for extreme battery life at the cost of performance. It looks like Arrandale needs some further tweaking before we see an heir to the CULV throne.
Ultimately, we like Arrandale a lot as a balanced mobile offering. It's not going to be as fast as Clarksfield but that was never the point. Performance is 20% better in typical applications compared to mobile dual-core Penryn parts like the P8000 and P9000 series, and battery life at least didn't go down (in most cases). It's also nice to see integrated Intel graphics that don't suck… or at least, they only suck as bad as the current AMD and NVIDIA IGPs. We'll look at doing more testing with Arrandale's IGP in a future article when we have final shipping hardware, as the ability to limit the CPU performance in order to boost GPU speeds is intriguing.
If you're after a "typical" laptop, Arrandale solutions should be high on your list. We expect to see a ton of announced models at CES this week, and we'll do our best to cover them (along with Pine Trial netbooks). We still can't recommend any particular laptop as a solution for every problem, as different users have different needs, but Arrandale brings more choice to the table and choice is a good thing.