Wow, what’s with all the CULV hate? I’ve never seen a quietly introduced, low volume, mobile Intel CPU get so much negative press before.

CULV stands for Consumer Ultra Low Voltage. It’s a badge affixed to certain mobile Core 2 Duos that run at lower clocks and lower voltages than standard mobile Core 2 Duos. Just as some CPUs can overclock higher than others, some CPUs can run at lower voltages than others. It all has to do with the bell curve for CPU yield; while the majority will run at a normal frequency/voltage range, some will turn out to be exceptional parts.

The CULV parts also use the smaller packaging Intel first debuted in the MacBook Air. The bottom line is that these chips will enable smaller, thinner laptops but without dropping down to Atom-level performance. Intel has traditionally always done an ultra low voltage mobile CPU, this time it's just getting marketed a bit stronger - partially because of the smaller packaging, and additionally because of the stronger market for ultra portable notebooks now.

Processor Clock Speed L2 Cache TDP
Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 1.30GHz 3MB 10W


The max TDP for the CULV line tops out at 10W, with the lowest end single core chips dissipating a maximum of 5.5W. That’s not much more than an Atom processor.

In contrast, standard voltage mobile Core 2s have TDPs ranging from 17 - 35W.

It’s not all about dropping the voltage though, clock speed unfortunately suffers. Most CULV chips run in the 1.2 - 1.4GHz range. While that’ll still be much faster than an Atom, it’s roughly half the frequency of a standard mobile Core 2. You can argue that clock speed doesn’t matter, but you’ll notice the difference between a 1.2GHz Core 2 and one running at 2.4GHz.

And that’s ultimately why OEMs view CULV as a failure in North America: performance. Or at least that’s what they’ve been going around telling everyone.

To a certain extent even Apple has recognized the poor performance of ultra low voltage chips. When it introduced the MacBook Air, instead of going with a 1.2GHz ultra low voltage Core 2 Apple used a low voltage 1.6/1.8GHz Core 2 Duo. The difference in clock speed is one of the things I pointed out as a reason why the MacBook Air didn’t suck.

ASUS must’ve come to the same conclusion, because although its new UL line use a 1.3GHz CULV Core 2 Duo the chip ships overclocked. Yep.

The ASUS UL50Vt: Overclocked CULV
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  • Hrel - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    Always wanted a notebook that's actually portable; yet able to play games on it. I don't want max settings, I just want them to run. Now if only I could get a 1600x900 resolution from someone other than Sony... Preferably Asus.

    Really liking the inclusion of a discrete graphics card, I don't care if all the eye candy is on, I just wanna be able to play all the games that'll be coming out for the next year or so after I buy my laptop, and battery life of at least 6 hours is a must. So, I'm just waiting for someone to make that laptop; this looks like a step in the right direction.
  • fabarati - Wednesday, September 16, 2009 - link

    Well, vista runs quite fine on a 1.2 GHz C2D (the setting I've limited my T7700 to). The only time I bring it up is when I want to watch 1080p, or do something else cpu intensive. 720p runs quite fine.
  • chemist1 - Tuesday, September 15, 2009 - link

    Why not ship these products with software that allows even low-tech users to easily modify the clock speed (within pre-set acceptable parameters)? That way they could underclock when they wanted more battery life, but overclock when they wanted more performance (or had access to a wall outlet).
  • Mugur - Tuesday, September 15, 2009 - link

    I've seen many CULV notebooks reviewed and the fact most of them are very slow is due to the SINGLE CORE cpu that most of them have. Only the "high-end" CULV notebooks have C2D cpus, the other have Solos...

    And since the price for 13.3" starts from 150% of an ordinary 10" netbook (comparing Acer Aspire One D250 for example with the cheapest Acer Timeline) and goes up to 3x when you want a CULV C2D...

    I'm sure that on paper even a Core 2 Solo CULV at 1.4 Ghz is twice the speed of an Atom (or more?), but when you have Vista and a bunch of preinstalled stuff on it, trust me, it doesn't feel faster at all :-).

    So, in my opinion, the CULV platform is designed as an alternative to (relatively) cheap notebooks. Cheap notebook = around 2 Ghz C2D with small cache, 2-4 GB RAM, 320 GB HDD, 15" screen, 2.5h of battery and up to 3 KG in weight. Decent priced CULV = half the speed, half the weight, 2x the battery life, same memory, same HDD, 13-15" LED backlight screen.

    So it's really up to the consumer, if they are aware of the above...
  • fitten - Tuesday, September 15, 2009 - link

    Put Win7 on your netbook... it's a very different experience than Vista on it (Win7 actually runs smooth).
  • Mugur - Wednesday, September 16, 2009 - link

    I did... :-). But until October 22nd they are still sold with Vista.
  • wolfstone - Friday, November 6, 2009 - link

    i brought one of these yesterday with windows 7 installed
    ,it shows mine as being overclocked to 2.100mhz according to my CPU-Z.
    at the moment i have had it 1 day so too early to see proformace on it, i did have a 15" mac book pro but could not get on with there software (way too many years useing windows has left its mark)
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, September 15, 2009 - link

    2 Things I'm curious about:

    1) Comparison to Apple - I'm not a big fan of Apple, but their OS seems to hold the crown in battery life. A competitive PC alternative may seem nice to fence runners.

    2) What the impact of wireless has on the life. How big of an impact will there be, if using it for mainly Office Applications, or any application w/ WiFi off - noting that NetBooks are typically used for the "net".
  • Voldenuit - Monday, September 14, 2009 - link

    CULV hate? I haven't seen any CULV hate - quite the opposite, in fact, but then again here in Asia people seem to care more about portability (and price) than how big the V8 under the hood is.

    I have a 1.2 GHz C2D in my thinkpad X300, and it is certainly adequate for my computing needs (internet, excel, matlab, mathcad, some 720p watching). Certainly the SSD helps it feel faster - I'd wager that this is the real bottleneck in most laptops. The ex's Gateway w/ 1.8 GHz C2D and 5,400 rppm hdd feels like molasses in comparison when I switch over. And the Samsung SSD on the X300 isn't even particularly fast by modern standards.

    Nice to see that ASUS has managed to undercut the 13in MBP on weight - it'll be interesting to see how much lighter the 14- and 13-in models in the range are.
  • beginner99 - Tuesday, September 15, 2009 - link

    [quote]he ex's Gateway w/ 1.8 GHz C2D and 5,400 rppm hdd feels like molasses in comparison when I switch over. And the Samsung SSD on the X300 isn't even particularly fast by modern standards. [/quote]

    Agree.Any CULV with SSD probably feels faster in everyday use than a standard C2D with a slow notebook HDD.
    Too bad there are no real offers of this kind or if they are overpriced, cheaper to buy the standard model and the ssd separatley. Btu then you can actually choose you SSD and easly get rid of pre-installed useless stuff.

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