Intel Arrandale Core i5 and Core i3 Mobile Unveiled

Asus K42F Arrandale Notebook

The Asus K42F that provided the skins for our Core i5 M 540 processor testing is a reasonably straight-forward machine built with a cost-conscience exterior but quality components internally.  Frankly the machine has a lighter-duty feel to it with a keyboard that is a bit on the spongy side for our tastes, but it's what we've come to expect when Intel is configuring test machines. We should also note that this is a pre-production unit and that Asus claims there is a more firm keyboard design and other refinements that are now available on retail product.



The base configuration of the K42F, as you can see on the specifications sticker (bottom left) is for 2GB of system memory, though Intel actually beefed ours up a bit more with 4GB total.  The machine weighs in at 4.85lbs with its 6-cell battery and it strikes a nice balance between power and portability.  Fit and finish-wise, this notebook follows the Asus tradition of good tolerances and solid build quality.  It's glossy exterior was graced with a paint pattern that masks fingerprints pretty well actually as well.  Finally, this notebook also has both VGA output as well as HDMI and as we were able to demonstrate for you in our intro video, the output quality over HDMI is quite impressive, easily rivaling what we saw with NVIDIA's Ion platform.

You've heard of "three chords and the truth"?  Arrandale is three die, two chips and the cheap...

What's perhaps more impressive is the cost-efficiencies this new architecture brings to Intel's bottom line.  Pictured above here, Arrandale is housed in the small rPGA 988 socket with the H55 Express Southbridge below it and not much more than a few passive, power, analog and connector components around it that make up the motherboard area. Incidentally, there were about 3700 screws to pull to get this deep into the machine but we're not shy on working up a bit of perspiration for our beloved audience. Up in the top right corner of this picture is Intel's 802.11n WiFi radio solution that is a small mezzanine daughter card and of course you see two SODIMM sockets here for system memory.  Other than that, there really isn't much going on and it's surprising to see just how simplistic and elegant the design is that surrounds Intel's Core i5 Arrandale processor. 

On the other hand, at first glance we would have projected this notebook would drop in closer to $800, rather than it's $1K price tag, according to Asus, with a Core i5 520M under its hood.  However, we should underscore that this specific Core i5 SKU does come equipped with a combo DVD R/W/Blu-ray drive, which will ratchet up costs a bit.  Also, Asus informs us there is a Core i3 350M (2.26GHz, no Turbo Boost) variant of the machine that will come to market as well, that will be priced around $729, with a standard DVD Super Multi drive and an ATI Radeon HD 5470 GPU tacked on for a bunch more gaming horsepower.  Regardless, it appears Intel is commanding a premium for the Core i5 Mobile processor currently, though we're hopeful street prices will drift southward after launch and once in the channel with all the major OEMs.  After all, we're talking about a 32nm processor core here and a 45nm GPU and Memory controller chip.  The cost structure is in place for more competitive pricing.

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