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

  • crimson117 - Tuesday, January 15, 2008 - link

    Who would use an optical disc or a flash card reader to transfer business files when you could use a USB Flash Drive instead? Reply
  • Chaotic42 - Tuesday, January 15, 2008 - link

    You're supposed to pull them out of thin air! That's where the name came from. Fortunately they changed the name from "Macbook Ass" just in time. Reply
  • arklab - Tuesday, January 15, 2008 - link

    This is PERFECT!
    I had just ordered a five pound black MacBook for my 80's mother, and it's going back!
    It was to be her first ever computer, and was chosen for it's light weight, small size, and easy to see white-on-black keys.

    At only three pounds (almost HALF the weight)and with a brighter, easer to read screen the MacBook Air is just right.

    She will not be doing video editing, gaming, or use it to record HDTV shows.

    She just wants to do word processing, email, and internet.
    You could use a Celeron 300A for that!

    Plus she'll get to have all the geeks drooling all over it! ;)

    Thank You, Steve.
  • crimson117 - Tuesday, January 15, 2008 - link

    An 80-yr old might want a larger screen... Reply
  • nofumble62 - Thursday, January 17, 2008 - link

    Sounds like she is taking it back to store and replace with a XPS. Hahaha Reply
  • vijay333 - Tuesday, January 15, 2008 - link

    no ethernet port. one usb port. no replaceable battery. no disc drive. 4200rpm hard drive --- but it's THIN! Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Tuesday, January 15, 2008 - link

    You're supposed to use the airport (wireless). The loss of optical drive is significant, how do you update the OS in a year or two when Apple releases a new version? You're expected to use an external? Then it's not very portable is it? Reply
  • ceefka - Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - link

    I am thinking about boxing my optical drive in a USB 2.0 enclosure so I can use it with all of my computers. Maybe that is an option with these too if you don't like using the WiFi for that. Reply
  • andreschmidt - Tuesday, January 15, 2008 - link

    Apple introduced a new feature called Remote Drive that enables you to use the SuperDrive (Read: normal CD/DVD) of another computer wirelessly.

    Normally you do not need a SuperDrive on the road so I don't see it as an issue.

    The name, MacBook Air, indicates you are supposed to embrace the wireless life heh.
  • cmdrdredd - Saturday, January 19, 2008 - link

    andreschmidt, don't need a drive on the road? I want to watch a DVD perhaps... Reply

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