New 45nm Core
So, Wolfdale is the codename for dual-core Penryn processors. Just like the postponed quad-core Yorkfield CPUs, Wolfdale processors are manufactured with 45nm technological process. Moreover, Yorkfield and Wolfdale are based on absolutely identical semiconductor dies: Yorkfield is traditionally made of two dual-core Wolfdale dies put together into a single processor package. So, Wolfdale can be regarded as a basic building block for the entire Penryn family, and that is why it is very interesting to us.
Wolfdale processor core is 107sq.mm big and consists of 410 million transistors. These numbers give us to understand that Wolfdale has been changed significantly since the times of its predecessor - 65nm Conroe with only 291 million transistors. You can even see it from the photographs of Wolfdale and Conroe cores: the positioning of their functional units has slightly changed.
Wolfdale on the left and Conroe on the right (the images aren't scaled).
So, Wolfdale core is not just a smaller Conroe core resulting from the transition to finer production technology. Intel engineers made a number of innovations in the new processors (you can read more about the Penryn processor family in our article called Second Iteration of Core Micro-Architecture: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 CPU Review).
Most of these innovations should increase the processor performance. Wolfdale’s biggest advantage is the larger 6MB shared L2 cache memory. Moreover, Wolfdale processors support SSE4.1 instructions set including 47 new commands that can speed up 3D graphics and video processing alongside with scientific calculations in case of appropriate applications optimization.
A few changes have been made to the execution units, too. Wolfdale processors have now acquired Fast Radix-16 Divider unit that speeds up division and square root calculations. The new processor also features Super Shuffle Engine mechanism accelerating those SSE instructions that require bit-by-bit shuffling.
The above listed improvements and a few additional ones introduced in Wolfdale processors ensure that these new processors will work faster than the older Conroe CPUs running at the same clock speeds. However, we are not talking about any significant advantage here. Wolfdale offers only minor cosmetic refresh of the Core micro-architecture, that will change dramatically only in the upcoming Intel Nehalem CPUs scheduled to arrive in the end of 2008.
The most important thing about Wolfdale processors is certainly the new 45nm manufacturing process that allowed Intel not only to significantly increase the number of transistors per die without making the die any bigger in size. New production technology uses a new hafnium based material with a property called high-k, for the transistor gate dielectric, and a new combination of metal materials for the transistor gate electrode. This allows increasing processor clock frequencies further without raising their heat dissipation and power consumption. That is why these new processors will be of specific interest to overclockers, who will definitely be able to use them to set new overclocking records.
Summing up everything we have just said, let’s compare Wolfdale and Conroe technical specifications side by side:
Now that we have taken a quick look at the main Wolfdale features, let’s meet the specific members of this processor family that will become available in the nearest future.