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Intel Santa Rosa - The Future of Notebooks Unveiled

Intel Santa Rosa - The Future of Notebooks Unveiled



Introduction

Generation Four

In the second half of 2006, Intel launched their long awaited processor platform overhaul in the form of the Core microarchitecture, replacing all three server, desktop and mobile markets with Core 2 based products. Combined with a corporate re-branding exercise, Intel created quite a buzz in the industry and managed to regain ground lost to rivals AMD. With the slew of the new processors in the market, updated core logic platforms were also released as well. In the server market, this was the 5000 series chipsets (Blackford) and the desktop side saw the introduction of the P965 family of chipsets (Broadwater). On the mobile front however, the Napa platform, which was launched early 2006 in conjunction with the Core Duo (Yonah) mobile processor remained as the sole platform to support the new Core 2 Duo (Merom) processors as well.

While the notebook market gained an exciting new processor technology, Napa, Intel's third generation Centrino platform wasn't exactly new anymore. Besides being based on the older 945 Express chipset technologies, one of its largest restrictions was the maximum FSB support of 667MHz, which many deemed as greatly limiting the potential of the new mobile Core 2 Duo processors. Compared to the desktop variants which saw an overall FSB boost to 1066MHz, mobile Core 2 Duos had to be content with an almost 40% bandwidth reduction. In the first quarter of 2007, Intel helped prolong the lifespan of the Napa platform by introducing their new IEEE 802.11n Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN wireless chipset as an upgrade a few months ahead of its scheduled launch. However, the real money was on Santa Rosa, Intel's fourth generation Centrino platform and what is perceived to be the true successor to fully take advantage of what the Core 2 Duo could offer to the notebook world.

Intel unveiled details and plans for Santa Rosa in the course of the Intel Developer Forums through 2006, which included very juicy tidbits such as an enhanced 800MHz FSB, Intel mobile 965 chipset deployment, HD video decoding, HDMI, EFI BIOS, Robson cache technology, inbuilt HSDPA support and WiMAX. Of course, if you've been following the gossip vines, you'd know that some of these technologies did not make it into Santa Rosa. However, Santa Rosa isn't just another platform bump to introduce the mobile 965 chipset. There are some real innovations inside the shell that have made the cut.

As you should know by now, Intel's Centrino is not just a notebook or its individual components. It is a collective platform as a whole comprising of the processor, chipset and wireless components and Santa Rosa offers updates in all these areas (except maybe for the wireless part, which was launched earlier, but more on that further on). In this article, we take a close look at these individual components, their improvements, updates and we even have some early performance numbers for you to digest.


Santa Rosa: A Brand New Centrino

The Intel Centrino branding has undergone a series of face lifts over the past years that reflect its evolution and direction in the notebook space. More importantly, the marketing guys over at Intel have tried to make Centrino The household name when it comes to notebooks and they can boast that the Centrino program has been one of Intel's biggest successes. Due to the significance of the technologies that the Santa Rosa platform brings to the table, Intel has decided again to push for a new branding.

Besides the minor change in the Centrino logo to remove the classic butterfly design, Intel split the platform into two distinctive groups: Centrino Duo and Centrino Pro. There is no need to be alarmed though, the Duo and Pro suffixes do not denote performance segmentation. Santa Rosa notebooks branded Centrino Duo are the standard consumer variants which we know and love today, while Centrino Pro is the business oriented version that includes the various vPro technologies introduced in the desktop 965 chipset series such as Active Management Technology.