Penryns in Canada

Dell Canada is now offering upgrades to the T8xxx and T9xxx series Penryn CPUs in its XPS M1330 laptops. The lowest grade Penryn version, the T8300, is available as a $100 upgrade over the T7250. That $100 will get you a 2.4GHz, 3MB L2 cache processor with SSE4.1 versus the T7250 at 2.0GHz and 2MB L2 cache (no SSE4.x either). That’s not even mentioning the improvement in battery life you should see. Excellent stuff.

Looking Forward to 45nm

Some big, but expected news came out of Intel at this year’s CES. The official roll-out of most of the 45nm product line marks a fairly fundamental change in semiconductor technology. Instead of using a traditional metal, silicon dioxide, semiconductor gate stack, they’ve switched from silicon dioxide to a hafnium-based material. With the dielectric layer becoming so thin that leakage current was playing a big role in power consumption, a new material was used to isolate the two conductors. The reduced power consumption makes it an even better choice for mobile situations. I’m also very excited about it because it fits perfectly with some computer plans I have for the upcoming year.

I’ve realized that with my nomadic student life that a big tower desktop PC is just a little too hard to carry around. Weighing 50lbs+ all in, the Antec P180B case that houses my computer is a beast. With co-op and university alternating semesters, I’m finding it a hassle to move, and every bit of weight and size reduction helps. As a result, I’m planning on shrinking my desktop down to a Small Form Factor (SFF) PC.

For a time, I considered going with a Shuttle SFF, but I realized the large price premium wasn’t worth the small decrease in size and reduced upgradability compared with building my own SFF around a microATX board. Fortunately, there are some half-decent mATX motherboards available. One qualm I’ve had in the past with mATX boards was their low-end nature and lack of overclocking features. I’ve been waiting for a good mATX board with lots of overclocking potential, and a couple companies have delivered in the past year or so. Most recently, and most exciting is the ASUS P5E-VM HDMI, which is based on the Intel G35 chipset. In addition to solid performance and a good amount of features, overclocking has been quite good, with FSB overclocks reaching 450-500MHz.

So the plan for the computer is to get an ASUS P5E-VM HDMI motherboard and a Wolfdale or Yorkfield (haven’t decided yet – it will depend on how the retail samples overclock), combine them with my existing 8800GT and 4GB RAM inside a Silverstone Sugo SG-01 Evolution mATX cube case. The case is somewhere around 6-7lbs as opposed to the 35-40lbs of the Antec P180B. Overall, we’re looking at weight savings of more than 30lbs.

Once I have the computer taken care of, I need to focus on storage. With the new 24″ LCD, I’m finding the standard definition media just isn’t cutting it anymore. Plus, I’m running out of space on my internal 320G and external 500GB hard drives. I’ve been using an external hard drive because every once in a while I’ll go home with my laptop and bring my media with me. However, I also don’t want to carry around multiple external hard drives once I run out of room with the current 500GB. Therefore in the interests of convenience and data redundancy, I plan on building a small network-attached storage box as well with a few 500GB or 750GB drives in a simple box, such as the Antec NSK1380. I already have the microATX motherboard and an adequate Pentium E2160 to go along with it.

I’m eagerly looking forward to that right time to buy all this new hardware. I’ve seen some talk of retail box Wolfdales popping up already, but none in North America. I’ll also be on the lookout for a nice mid-range Penryn to give my M1330 a jolt of performance and battery life.