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Roadmap reveals next-gen MacBook Pro processor candidates

Intel plans a major boost to its mobile CPUs for their next revision, but may force Apple and other notebook vendors to wait before they can reap the benefits.

Following its disclosure of future Xeons on Tuesday, technology site DailyTech also claims to have obtained preliminary but likely specifications for the next round of portable Core 2 Duo chips.

Rooted in Intel's Penryn technology, the future processors will share the same underpinnings as the Santa Rosa-based chip designs found in today's MacBook Pro systems but will shrink the manufacturing size from 65 nanometers down to 45, simultaneously cooling the processors and clearing room for both a ramp-up of clock speeds as well as more on-chip features.

Unlike the processor revision first released by Intel in May, the Penryn update will emphasize higher speeds over raw efficiency. Although the cheapest processor will climb from 1.8GHz to 2.1GHz, the remaining three chips will be clustered within just 200MHz of each other, launching at 2.4GHz, 2.5GHz, and 2.6GHz. Engineers will instead use Level 2 cache to keep costs in check and will give the two high-end chips 6MB shared between cores, halving the amount for the lesser models.

Intel has already announced that all of the Core 2 Duo revisions will use a new set of instructions named SSE4. These will supply software developers with 54 extra instructions that could lead to faster programs when supported by the right code, the chipmaker says.

But those gains are not imminent, according to the roadmap. Intel does not anticipate shipping the Penryn-based mobile processors until the first quarter of 2008 — leaving Apple and other notebook vendors without obvious upgrade paths for the second half of 2007.

Intel has released a 2.6GHz mobile Core 2 Extreme as an interim step but is said to be targeting the speed increase at notebooks for enthusiast gamers and at portable workstations. The higher clock rate running on today's 65-nanometer process increases the power draw from 35 to 44 watts and is widely believed to produce too much heat for some thinner notebooks.

Intel said Monday after market close that its second quarter net profits rose 44 percent year-over-year to $1.3 billion, creating $8.7 billion in total revenue thanks both to healthy processor shipments and job cuts.