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The Year of the i

February 22, 2010 - Dave Hecei
2010 will be the year of the i. It will certainly be the year of the iPad, but I am talking about Intel and the new line of i-Series processor chips.

In 2009, Apple switched the Mac Pro towers from the Quad Core Xeon processor to the newer Core i7. Near the end of last year Apple started offering the 27-inch iMac with the Core i5 quad-core processor, with the Core i7 available in custom configurations

It is very likely that Apple will, throughout this year, update all of the Macs to use the i-Series processors. The Pro towers are already using them, but now that Intel has made mobile versions the Mac laptops will eventually be switched over

While the Core 2 Duo processors are still very good, the i-Series uses the latest in chip technologies. They are made using the new 35nm process, which packs the transistors tighter on the silicon chip. They also have slightly lower power requirements, which translates to increased battery life and lower heat production. All this is nice, but in the end it is all about the speed, and the i-Series chips do deliver.

For the same clock speed, the Core i5 is 20-100% faster than the Core 2 Duo. In published benchmarks from MacWorld, they tested typical tasks, but also include certain CPU intensive tasks. On the typical stuff there is only a 10-20% speed increase, which you would expect in a newer chip design. For the intensive number crunching tasks, like video re-encoding or 3D rendering, the 2.66GHz Core i5 iMac performed from 60-100% faster. Remember, this is at the same clock speed.

Apple will likely use all of the i-Series models. The i3 is the budget chip that is a dual-core design. The i5 and i7 are quad-core designs. This means that the Mac mini and MacBook will likely get an i3, while the iMac and MacBook Pro will get the i5 and i7. (Yes the 27-inch iMac has them now, while the 21.5-inch iMac does not have that option, yet.)

It is just a matter of time until the i-Series is in all Mac models. Since the iMacs were recently updated it is unlikely that they will switch this early. With plenty of rumors abound touting new MacBook Pros, it is very likely that they will be the first to get the mobile i-Series chips. This could be as in the next few weeks, or not until after the iPad release sometime before the end of March. I guess I can start wishing now for an i5 quad-core Mac mini.


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