Apple's MacBook Air: Uncovering Intel's Custom CPU for Appleby Anand Lal Shimpi on January 15, 2008 12:00 AM EST
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Apple just announced its MacBook Air and the thing looks stunning. If you haven’t already seen the specs, here’s what we’re looking at:
0.16” - 0.76” x 12.8” x 8.94” (H x W x D)
Full Size keyboard from the MacBook
13.3” 1280 x 800 LED backlit screen
Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6GHz or 1.8GHz, 800MHz FSB, 4MB shared L2
80GB 1.8” 4200RPM HDD or optional 64GB SSD
Starting at $1799
The MacBook Air looks to be a very well designed ultra portable, making very few compromises (no optical drive, but you get a full sized keyboard) while keeping the size down.
One feature that stood out from Steve’s announcement of the Air was that it appears to use a low-voltage Merom based Core 2 Duo instead of an Ultra Low Voltage Merom like most of its competitors.
Standard Merom (65nm) based Core 2 Duo processors run off of a 1.0375 - 1.3000V core voltage under normal operating conditions (full clock frequency). These chips range from 1.8GHz all the way up to 2.6GHz (not including Extreme Edition parts).
Low Voltage Core 2 Duo processors are lower yielding parts that can work at lower voltages, and thus Intel charges a small premium for these chips since they aren’t as common. These LV Core 2 Duos run at 0.9V - 1.2000V under normal operating conditions, and they are available in 1.4GHz, 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz speeds. We believe that these are the cores Apple is using in the MacBook Air.
Ultra Low Voltage Core 2 Duos drop operating voltage even lower, down to 0.8V - 0.975V, but clock speeds are limited to 1.06 - 1.33GHz. Mobile Penryn will eventually be offered in a ULV version, at which point we expect clock speeds to jump a bit but not enough for Apple’s needs.
Apple wanted the MacBook Air to be no-compromises, and thus the LV Core 2 Duo made the most sense. Mobile Penryn would’ve actually made even more sense, since the move to 45nm not only increases battery life but reduces thermal output; unfortunately there are no Low Voltage versions of the new core, not to mention that availability is extremely limited.
So with relative certainty we know what CPU core Apple is using in the MacBook Pro (there is no 4MB L2 Penryn and Intel wouldn’t spin a new version of a CPU just for Apple so we’re dealing with a 65nm Merom), but the bigger question is one of packaging size.