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Intel ships low-power mobile chips

Intel ships low-power mobile chips

Intel is keeping the pressure on its low-power processor rival Transmeta, launching today a handful of new speed upgrades to its increasingly confusing array of low-voltage products, and throwing in a new standard-voltage mobile Celeron for good measure.

Intel adds to its mobile arsenal the 600-MHz Ultra-Low Voltage Mobile Pentium III with SpeedStep, the 750-MHz Low-Voltage Mobile PIII with SpeedStep, the 600-MHz Ultra-Low Voltage Mobile Celeron, the 600-MHz Low-Voltage Mobile Celeron, and, finally, an 800-MHz Mobile Celeron.

More Options for Power

While it's becoming more difficult to keep track of Intel's various long-titled low and ultra-low voltage products, the company's carpet-bombing strategy seems to be working.

The new chips "definitely give Intel an improvement in performance at the low end of the power spectrum--that's a welcome addition in mini-notes and thin-and-light notebooks," says Kevin Krewell, senior analyst with MicroDesign Resources.

Krewell notes, however, that he believes Intel's current mobile processor lineup is an interim solution. The company's next mobile Pentium, now code-named Tualatin and due out later this year, will provide even better performance at a low voltage, he says.

For now, mainstream value-priced notebooks can use the 800-MHz Celeron, while thin-and-light units can use either the 750-MHz PIII with SpeedStep or 600-MHz Celeron. Mininotebooks, which are popular in Japan, can now use 600-MHz Pentium III with SpeedStep or the 600-MHz Celeron chips, which each consume 1 watt of power or less.

Battling Transmeta

Fledgling chip maker Transmeta has found some early success among mininotebooks, particularly in the Japanese market. The company is now Intel's primary competition there--and the chip giant isn't taking the competition lightly.

The new Intel chips "further box Transmeta in," Krewell says. Transmeta has established a good vendor base in Japan, but Intel keeps piling on faster and faster processors with low power consumption. The chip giant is moving much more quickly than Transmeta, he says.

To remain competitive, Transmeta needs to release its Crusoe 5800 processor using the .13-micron manufacturing process, he says. The new chip becomes even more important with Intel's Tualatin on the horizon, he adds.

Intel also has to contend with new competition in the largest mobile market segment: mainstream high-power and lightweight systems. AMD recently released the Athlon 4, the company's first mobile Athlon processors, at speeds of 900 MHz to 1 GHz. Intel's fastest current high-end mobile Pentium III Speed Step CPUs are also at 1 GHz.

Workstations, Servers Go Pentium 4

Pentium 4 technology has migrated to Intel's Xeon line of processors as well. Intel has boosted Xeon speeds up to Pentium 4's current high of 1.7 GHz. With the new chips, Intel will boost its position in the workstation market and the midrange server market.

"It's a slightly overdue release," Krewell says. However, he adds, "they are very impressive machines" in terms of performance for scientific and other workstation apps. Be on the lookout for Xeon MP processors later, which will handle four and eight processors instead of being limited to the new Xeon's two processors, he says.

Like Pentium 4 systems, these new Xeons must be paired with Rambus, which makes the systems pricey, especially if you're looking to fill out a large memory array with 1 or 2GB of memory, he says. "Solutions that use DDR or standard SDRAM are more cost effective and still offer good bandwidth," he says.


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