Intel builds for mobility

Intel builds for mobility

Intel will today unveil Centrino, which pairs the company's first processor tailored to mobile environments together with an integrated 802.11b chip.

The technology is expected to usher in a new wave of thin-and-light notebook designs that take advantage of the reduced power consumption and increased battery life of the Pentium-M processor.

"It's a very promising solution that goes a long way towards balancing performance and battery life better than any other processor before it," senior editor at the Microprocessor Report, Kevin Krewell, said.

Intel's current processor for notebook computers, the Mobile Intel Pentium 4-M, was fairly similar to the desktop Pentium 4 processor. But the Pentium-M was a chip architecture designed exclusively for a mobile environment, said Anand Chandrasekher, Intel's vice-president and general manager of the mobile platforms group, at the recent Spring Intel Developer Forum in San Jose.

The Pentium-M uses some of the performance-oriented features of the Pentium 4, such as the bus technology and SSE2 (Streaming SIMD Extensions 2) instructions, but Intel modified these features to make them more "power-friendly," Microprocessor Report's Krewell said.

Notebooks using the Centrino package would be able to run for as long as five hours while processing power-intensive software such as Adobe Systems' Photoshop or DVD rendering apps, Intel said.

Formerly known as Banias, the Pentium-M will be available in six clock speeds. Standard-voltage versions of the chip will debut at 1.3GHz, 1.4GHz, 1.5GHz, and 1.6GHz. A low-voltage version will be introduced at 1.1GHz, and an ultra low-voltage version at 900MHz. The processor will use a 400MHz front-side bus.

Intel had originally hoped Centrino would include Intel's dual-band wireless chip with support for both 802.11b and 802.11a networks, but the company announced in December that Centrino would initially have to be packaged with a chip from Koninklijke Philips Electronics, constraining users to 802.11b.

Support for the faster but less widely used 802.11a and 802.11g networks would follow later this year, Intel said in December.

Intel also expected the Pentium-M chip to be used in blade servers. The reduced amount of heat and power dissipated by the processor would help blade-server vendors design thinner servers, thereby increasing the density of storage their offerings could provide.

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