Intel's Nehalem Focused on Power Efficiency

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Leave it to Intel (INTC) to try to rain on AMD’s (AMD) parade. Less than two weeks after AMD sang out praises of its new chip’s power efficiency with the launch of its “Barcelona” quad-core processor, Intel is showing off its latest innovation in chip architecture — “Nehalem” — which will feature up to eight cores, and is set for a 2008 release. Intel didn’t announce how efficient the chips will be, but the company made sure to point out that it focused on power efficiency in the development of its new architecture as it demoed the chip line at the Intel’s Developer Forum this week in San Francisco.

“Nehalem is supposed to cover a wide range of systems and configurations, and to enable this we had a strong focus on power efficiency,” Glenn Hilton, Nehalem architect and Intel Fellow, told the audience at the developer’s forum. “For example, every feature we added to Nehalem had to pass very stringent power-efficiency guidelines, even more so than we’ve done in the past.”

Features like cache flushing and low-power state — where components of the chip can be turned off when they aren’t being used — will aid in Intel’s power efficiency metrics, Roger Kay, president of research firm EndPoint Technologies told us.

Power efficiency is a major feature in the design of both AMD’s and Intel’s chips, though it can be difficult to compare the two because the companies can use different metrics to quantify electricity drain. Even so, when Intel releases the exact efficiency metrics of its latest line of microprocessors, we’re sure they’ll try to make the chip look as green as possible.

Whether Intel’s chip will prove more energy efficient vs. AMD’s Barcelona is anyone’s guess. “It’s hard to say if these companies will be relative to each other in 2008. Intel demonstrated this week that they plan to be competitive on that front,” said Kay.

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