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.


View All Comments

  • andreschmidt - Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - link

    I don't quite get the general opinion about the MacBook Air. It is priced competitively against other portables in its weight class. It is faster than competing products in its weight class too. Reply
  • Randum - Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - link

    lets face it. Apple tries to market existing products or just brand something to look trendy.
    This is a great example. Add some chrome hubcaps to an old lincoln-boom, you just pimped my ride apple...

    wish this fade would change but people are more concerned with how it looks rather than actual performance.
  • legoman666 - Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - link

    sure is nice looking. Id like to buy one and toss XP on it, but $1800? go to hell. I'll stick with my more capable Thinkpad. Reply
  • Eug - Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - link

    All I can say is that I'm very happy I kept my MacBook Core Duo.

    I bought my MacBook in May 2006, and after almost 2 years Apple releases a machine that is much, much more expensive, is not any faster, and has much less functionality.

    The MacBook Air is a gorgeous design that I lust after... until I see the multitude of compromises and sticker price. It's almost like the Cube all over again.
  • WileCoyote - Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - link

    I'm in for one when the 2nd gen comes out (or at least the next revision). Awesome, just awesome. Apple might not be the first to come out with something but they're usually the first to do it right. Reply
  • Griswold - Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - link

    Well, they didnt do it right, else you could buy this one, aye? Reply
  • grifonik - Tuesday, January 15, 2008 - link

    the mac herd will buy these things because of how they look and their efforts to be "cool" to peers. its art to them. for the rest of us using logic, it'll never make sense to pay more money for less functionality.

  • BZDTemp - Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - link

    Sometimes less is more.

    If for one do not want to carry what I do not need. I hardly need a optical drive so I'm fine without one, as with most of the other stuff found on the more "standard" laptops. When on the move I don't need anything but a USB slot (to do backup on a stick) and wireless is everywhere so that is fine also.

    I like that the Air is not so bulky but more importantly it is light while still having a decent size monitor and an full size keyboard.

    The slow disk does make me wonder so I shall wait till there are some reviews before making a buy or not. But I do expect that with 2 GB space it will only really be when starting apps that it will be felt.
  • AnnonymousCoward - Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - link

    High price and low functionality is the Apple standard.

    This thing is much more interesting:">
  • lopri - Tuesday, January 15, 2008 - link

    "the mac herd will buy these things"

    including Mr. Anand whose judgment has been impaired for quite some time. I am terribly sorry to say this but please Anand, keep your hobby at your blog posts. That was enough already.

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