Intel’s SFF Merom: Just for Apple

During Jobs’ keynote, Apple mentioned that the Core 2 Duo in the MacBook Air was 60% smaller than standard Core 2 Duo processors. A quick look at Intel’s mobile Core 2 Duo datasheets reveals that indeed both the micro-FCPGA and micro-FCBGA packaged Meroms measure 35mm x 35mm. Is it possible that Intel designed a completely new package just for Apple?



It turns out that the answer is a surprising: sort-of. At last year’s Fall IDF Intel talked about Montevina, the successor to Santa Rosa due out in the second half of 2008. Montevina would combine a new chipset (Cantiga) with mobile Penryn. In addition to Montevina Intel will also release Montevina SFF, a smaller package version of the platform that reduces overall chip footprint by around 60%.


Pay attention to the size of the CPU, it drops from 35mm x 35mm down to 22mm x 22mm - Penryn SFF is around 40% of the size of regular mobile Penryn, which happens to be the same size as Merom.

It looks like Intel created Merom SFF specifically for the MacBook Air, a product that wasn’t in Intel’s lineup or roadmap but one that Apple needed. Remember that the first chip that will look like this wasn’t scheduled to be out for another six months with Montevina SFF.

It’s not clear whether Intel will make this custom Merom available to other OEMs (we’d suspect they would if there was enough demand), but it’s a tremendous feat on Apple’s part. This isn’t the first time Intel has put together a one-off chip for Apple; if you’ll remember, the CPU in the Apple TV was a special Dothan that wasn’t a part of Intel’s standard lineup.

We’ll have a look at the MacBook Air as soon as they start shipping, if you’re ordering one now we’d recommend taking the SSD option if you can afford it. At $999 it’s pricey, but it should help keep heat down in the chassis and performance should be better than the pitiful 1.8” HDD in the system, which we suspect will end up being its weak point.

We also can’t help but think that a Penryn based MacBook Air would be far more desirable thanks to lower thermal output of Intel’s 45nm chips. If you are fine waiting, a MacBook Air in the second half of 2008 will give you slightly better performance, better battery life and should keep your lap a lot cooler.
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  • pink78 - Monday, April 07, 2008 - link

    All the scandals, that raised in january-february are now not so active, and lots of people NOW have a MacBook Air.
    And they all say it's not bad at all, many of them love the Air, thare are lots of positive reviews on http://www.maconair.com">http://www.maconair.com
    I don't think that was a bad idea to create a nice but not so powerful laptop.

    Reply
  • StupidMonkey - Sunday, January 20, 2008 - link

    ...can you really be? I dont understand all this "OH MY GOD IT WEIGHS AS MUCH AS MY CELL PHONE!" Are you people truly so lazy that carrying around a few pounds hinders your day? Are you so out of shape that it wears you out? I understand that portable is nice, I understand that there are times you have to move your laptop 100 times a day, but seriously, why do you want to pay more money for something that weighs less?

    Regardless of how wealthy you are, or are not, its a colossal waste of money. Most importantly, someone who spends that much time on their laptop should be more concerned with screen size than they should weight. If you rarely use it, then you would not be carrying it around all the time, and a small screen should be ok. But if you are on it all day long, a larger screen will have less eyestrain. This is better for your eyes, and better for your ability to stay awake while on the job. If ultra portability is really what you need, get a PDA.
    Reply
  • StupidMonkey - Sunday, January 20, 2008 - link

    ...can you really be? I dont understand all this "OH MY GOD IT WEIGHS XXX LBS!!!!!" Are you people truly so lazy that carrying around a few pounds hinders your day? Are you so out of shape that it wears you out? I understand that portable is nice, I understand that there are times you have to move your laptop 100 times a day, but seriously. Why do you want to pay more money for something that weighs less? Regardless of how wealthy you are, or are not, its a colossal waste of money. Most importantly, someone who spends that much time on their laptop should be more concerned with screen size than they should weight. If you rarely use it, then you would not be carrying it around all the time, and a small screen should be ok. But if you are on it all day long, a larger screen will have less eyestrain. This is better for your eyes, and better for your ability to stay awake while on the job. If ultra portability is really what you need, get a PDA. Reply
  • StupidMonkey - Sunday, January 20, 2008 - link

    ...can you really be? I dont understand all this "OH MY GOD IT WEIGHS XXX LBS!!!!!" Are you people truly so lazy that carrying around a few pounds hinders your day? Are you so out of shape that it wears you out? I understand that portable is nice, I understand that there are times you have to move your laptop 100 times a day, but seriously. Why do you want to pay more money for something that weighs less? Regardless of how wealthy you are, or are not, its a colossal waste of money. Most importantly, someone who spends that much time on their laptop should be more concerned with screen size than they should weight. If you rarely use it, then you would not be carrying it around all the time, and a small screen should be ok. But if you are on it all day long, a larger screen will have less eyestrain. This is better for your eyes, and better for your ability to stay awake while on the job. If ultra portability is really what you need, get a PDA. Reply
  • deeeee - Monday, January 21, 2008 - link

    > Why do you want to pay more money for something that weighs less?
    > Regardless of how wealthy you are, or are not, its a colossal
    > waste of money.

    What should I say?
    Because weight (and size) DO matter. At least sometimes.

    Even if it is "just a few hundred grams", it all adds up in the end.

    And then you're going to either have your briefcase complete and still portable or you'll provide some additional unilateral stress to your shoulder, that will make your spine hurt two to five years earlier...
    It's just that simple.

    If it's not for you, don't buy it.
    But I can imagine a whole lot of things, that don't make any sense to me and that still are valuable.
    Besides:
    Screen resolution, luminosity, contrast and proper font rendering are much more important to lessen eyestrain than the shere size. In fact, most books are remarkably less then 17" in spanning - why exactly should a screen of comparable size be worse for your eyes?
    Reply
  • walke219 - Friday, January 18, 2008 - link

    Let me start by saying that I am no computer expert. I do, however, have an opinion about the Macbook Air. I actually did pre order the computer. I am a medical student who is required to carry around a laptop at all times. I have been carrying around a Dell Inspiron 6000 from undergrad, which is obviously less than portable. For a person like me, who simply needs this computer for internet, powerpoint, email, word processing, etc. It seems like a pretty good option. It will fit in my bag and weigh less than any one of my books. I highly doubt that I will ever notice the 4,200rpm hard drive or the lack of an optical drive (especially when the university installs the borrow program on the network). The only option I chose was the 1.8 Ghz processor. The price was a bit much, but oh well. I think it is important to remember that there is a lot to be said about the portability. 3 lbs and less than an inch thick for someone who is carrying around a computer and a couple books at all times is a pretty good setup. Granted, at Universities and Hospitals there is always wireless around too, and with wireless printing the whole package is pretty attractive.

    A lot of what I'm reading revolves around people forgetting that not everyone needs 4gb ram and 3Ghz processors...
    Reply
  • grosskopf - Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - link

    Check Toshiba RX1

    http://www.dynamism.com/rx1/main.shtml">http://www.dynamism.com/rx1/main.shtml

    weighs 1.88 pounds!, has 12 inch screen and an optical drive! as well as many ports.

    Even its size is smaller. Its thicker, but other dimensions are 20-30% shorter.

    Yeah, it also comes with LED back-lit screens, and SSD hard drives.



    Or how about Fusitsu S6510?
    uhttp://store.shopfujitsu.com/fpc/Ecommerce/buildse...">http://store.shopfujitsu.com/fpc/Ecomme..._ck=5736...

    It weighs a bit more,(3.7lb) but has 14 inch screen (full sized keyboard), faster processor, bigger memory, expendable slots, 2.5 inch hard drives, ports,.. all the functionality you could want.


    Hey, what about Panasonic Y7 ?

    http://www.dynamism.com/y7/main.shtml">http://www.dynamism.com/y7/main.shtml

    It weighs 3.3 pounds, has 14 inch screen (thus a full sized keyboard), faster processor, all the ports, an optical drive, 8 HOURS of battery life.

    It is even very sturdy physically!


    Even production values are higher with these top of the line Japanese notebooks. Macbooks are made in Taiwan/China by Taiwanese OEMs while these models are made in Japan. (Yeah, they do still produce the highest quality electronics.)

    There are tons of models with similar functionality as the Macbook Air in east Asia. (Here, ultra portables are the norm.) For example, Samsung builds notebooks almost as thin.



    The points is, Macbook Air is pretty mediocre in its technology. Its nothing revolutionary at all hardware wise. (maybe except the touchpad)


    Apple is great in design, marketing, software, and dealing with the media industry. (itunes..)

    But it is not a high tech hardware firm at all. It just borrows existing technologies, puts them in a nice designed box and manufacture them through Taiwanese OEMs.

    Reply
  • deeeee - Sunday, January 20, 2008 - link

    > Check Toshiba RX1
    >
    > http://www.dynamism.com/rx1/main.shtml">http://www.dynamism.com/rx1/main.shtml
    >
    > weighs 1.88 pounds!, has 12 inch screen and an optical drive! as well
    > as many ports.
    >
    > Even its size is smaller. Its thicker, but other dimensions are 20-30% shorter.

    And even its display is more than one inch smaller and the price is more than twice as high and the cpu is much slower, has a smaller cache and the thingy ships with half the amount of RAM...

    > Or how about Fusitsu S6510?
    > uhttp://store.shopfujitsu.com/fpc/Ecomme..._ck=5736...">http://store.shopfujitsu.com/fpc/Ecomme..._ck=5736...
    >
    > It weighs a bit more,(3.7lb) but has 14 inch screen (full sized keyboard),
    > faster processor, bigger memory, expendable slots, 2.5 inch hard drives,
    > ports,.. all the functionality you could want.

    More than twice as thick, plus:
    it OPTIONALLY has more RAM. For a little more than the same price you'll get exactly the same amount of RAM.
    Additionally it weighs 3.7lb WITHOUT optical drive—so it weighs 23-33% more—and it has a lower battery life.

    > Hey, what about Panasonic Y7 ?
    >
    > http://www.dynamism.com/y7/main.shtml">http://www.dynamism.com/y7/main.shtml

    Neat, only more than two to three times as thick, half the RAM, 500$ more...

    We have a nice saying here in Germany which translates to "You cannot compare apples to pears" which is exactly what all you guys have been doing here.
    There are laptops out there, that have more features etc. but this usually comes at a cost—either in terms of money, weight or size.
    Plus:
    None of those I've seen so far has a backlit keyboard :-p

    Being honest:
    I would have wanted to have some sort of dock connector or at least an additional Firewire (800) port in that thing.

    Cheers,
    deeeeee
    Reply
  • MrHanson - Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - link

    Apple is getting a little ridiculous. Limited functionality and a price of $1800 will solidify it's demise. Reply
  • rchiu - Thursday, January 17, 2008 - link

    Heh, what you don't understand is to people with money, how good it looks is more important than how functional it is. They don't actually sit in an IT cube with ethernet access only and copy files from and to PC's or write some industrial strength code. They just sip latte all day in some starbucks, or write some blog and socialize on facebook. So wireless and 4200rpm HDD will be plenty for them. This will sell, for sure. Reply

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