In first quarter 2003, Intel unleashed its exciting new Centrino mobile platform, which enables PC makers to create new notebook and Tablet PC computers that offer stunning battery life, Pentium 4—level performance, and integrated wireless capabilities. Centrino marks the first time that Intel has created a new mobile platform from scratch instead of retrofitting preexisting processor technologies with mobile features, as it did with the Pentium III Processor - M and Pentium 4 Processor - M product lines. The result is a new generation of mobile computing solutions that offer substantially better functionality than past systems. Here's what you need to know about the Intel Centrino mobile platform.
A New Mobile-Savvy Microprocessor
At the heart of the Centrino platform is the new Pentium M processor (code-named Banias), which boasts an all-new design that runs at clock speeds of 1.3GHz to 1.8GHz but offers performance that equals 2.4GHz Pentium 4 Processor - M chips. The Pentium M processor accomplishes this feat with a new internal design that's optimized for mobile conditions, including a feature that supports switching between battery and AC power. The processor can also intelligently modify its internal clock speed and voltage to match the needs of the system at the time, which results in longer battery life. In tests of Centrino-based machines, I witnessed clock speeds ranging from a high of 1.6GHz while plugged into AC power to a low of 221MHz while idle and running on battery power. Intel has also outfitted the Pentium M processor with a 400MHz bus and 1MB of power-managed L2 cache, both of which enhance overall system performance.
A New Mobile-Savvy Chipset
The Centrino platform includes the Intel 855, a new chipset that's optimized for power management and supports some unique new features. The 855 supports up to 2GB of Double Data Rate (DDR) 266/200 RAM, which is twice the amount of RAM available in most current notebooks and faster than most notebook memory today. The 855 also supports USB 2.0 for faster external expansion and data transfer, optional integrated graphics for low-cost mobile solutions, and a new imaging model that lets Intel provide software-based updates to the underlying chipset.
One of the most exciting aspects of the Centrino mobile platform is its support for 802.11b and 802.11a wireless networking technologies. As an integrated part of the chipset, the Centrino's wireless capabilities don't occupy valuable PC Card or mini-PCI slot space and offer lower power consumption and integration with the system's power-management capabilities. These features mean that Centrino-based notebooks and Tablet PCs will emerge from Standby and Hibernation modes and reconnect with wireless networks more seamlessly than PC Card- and PCI card—based wireless solutions.
Devices that take advantage of the combination of the Centrino's Pentium M processor, the 855 chipset, and integrated wireless are among the speediest performers available. If you're rolling out notebook or Tablet PC computers this year, you should seriously consider devices based on Centrino. In my tests of Centrino-based notebooks, I've found these devices to offer similar performance to high-end Pentium 4 Processor - M notebooks. However, the battery life is astonishing and often twice that of similar pre-Centrino devices. These features will make users more mobile and more productive.