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Intel\'s dual-core \"Yonah\" chip could carry PowerBooks beyond 2GHz

A higher-performance, dual-core version of Intel\'s Pentium M processor due early next year is a likely candidate to boost Apple\'s PowerBook line of notebook computers beyond the 2GHz milestone.

The chip, code-named \"Yonah,\" is due to begin showing up in Windows-based systems in the first quarter of 2006 —a few months before Apple is expected to roll-out its first Intel-based Macs.

Initially, dual-core versions of Yonah will be available in four flavors, ranging from 1.66GHz to 2.16GHz, each with a 667MHz front side bus. A single core 1.66GHz version of Yonah is also reportedly in the works.

According to DigiTimes, 1000-unit lots of the dual core chips will wholesale between US$241 on the low-end and US$637 for the top-of-the-line 2.16GHz model. It\'s possible that Apple, which will likely purchase several hundred thousand of the chips, will be able to obtain them at a further reduced cost.

Yonah will also represent Intel’s transition from 90nm technology to a 65nm process and is expected to become the gemstone of Napa —the company\'s dual-core notebook platform and third generation Centrino bundle. However, the chip will be approximately 70% smaller than the original Centrino chip set, requiring significantly less board space.

At a press conference last Thursday, Intel said the chip\'s twin cores will increase multitasking performance in notebook-based systems, but also help extend battery life. A feature called Dynamic Power Coordination will allow Yonah\'s two cores to be power-managed independently, making it possible to shut down one of the cores to aid in power consumption. It will also allow for on-the-fly changes to the chip\'s voltage and frequency, the company said.

Another major feature of Yonah is Digital Media Boost, a dual-part update delivering improvements to the chips SSE instructions for multimedia and Floating Point unit. Together, Intel says the updates will improve everything from digital photo manipulation to video editing, gaming, and music.

Yonah will also sport a new shared memory 2MB level 2 cache, dubbed \"Smart Cache,\" which will keep data in close proximity to the processor cores for faster access. This feature is a prime component of Yonah\'s enhanced power management because it allows a single core to access the chip\'s entire memory cache when the other core is switched off.

It\'s believed that 32-bit Yonah chip will also be used in compact Apple desktop design, like the Mac mini.