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Intel's Pentium-M & Centrino

Centrino logo set

On March 12, 2003 Intel formally released a new line of products (Pentium-M and Mobile 855 chipset) and debuted a new brand name (Centrino). Centrino is a new strategic direction for Intel in several ways. For starters, Centrino is an umbrella brand - one that describes the combination of three products:

Centrino = Pentium-M + Intel 855 chipset + Intel 802.11b

In mainstream laptops where a combination of good battery life and high performance is desired, the Pentium-M is intended to replace the Mobile Pentium 4.

Along with the new Centrino brand comes a new logo, the usual Intel blue combined with magenta in the shape of an arrow, which Intel says is designed to convey "a feeling of speed, mobility, and streamlined technology".

Pentium-M versus Mobile Pentium 4

  Pentium-M Mobile Pentium 4
Current Clock Speeds 1.3 GHz to 1.6 GHz 1.4 GHz to 2.4 GHz
Level 2 Cache 1 MB 512 KB
System Bus 400 MHz 400 MHz
Intel Chipset Mobile 855 Mobile 845
Fabrication Process 0.13 micron 0.13 micron
Note that Pentium-M chips are significantly higher in performance than Mobile Pentium 4 chips at any given clock speed.

All else being equal, the Pentium-M will reduce the form factor of Intel-based laptops, making them more portable and lightweight. Not only will the size of laptops be reduced, but the battery power that they consume for a given level of performance will also decrease significantly. Pentium-M chips will be starting out at clock speeds lower than the currently available speeds of Pentium 4 M chips, but the efficiency (especially with regard to battery life) will be greater.

Intel is taking a substantial risk by introducing a new brand name at a time when computer and technology purchasing isn't especially strong. In an effort to try and minimize the risk being taken by the new marketing strategy, Intel is spending roughly $300 million in funds distributed to companies that adopt the Centrino brand. However, laptop manufacturers have not been willing to adopt Centrino exclusively. Dell, IBM, HP, and Toshiba are all adopting Centrino for part but not all of their laptop product lines.

How To Get It

Dell plans to release Pentium-M laptops across their entire Latitude product line. Along with the movement to the new chip technology, Dell is also revising their enclosures and their removable drive module size - the first time in many years. For the initial round of releases, Dell has announced (from smallest to largest):

  • Latitude D600 - a complete revision of Dell's mid-weight desktop-equivalent laptop design with a new, thinner design.

  • Dell Latitude D800 picture
  • Latitude D800 - a complete revision of Dell's full size desktop-equivalent laptop design. The D800 has two spindles as opposed to it's predecessor's (the Latitude C840) three spindles. It's most notable feature (seen at right) is a 15.4 inch wide-screen - the first large wide-screen on an Intel-based laptop. This screen is available in two resolutions, WXGA (1280x800) and WUXGA+ (1920x1200) .

IBM plans to release Pentium-M laptops in their X, T, and R lines. For the initial round of releases, IBM has announced (from smallest to largest):

  • ThinkPad X31 - a modest revision of IBM's lightweight laptop design with improvements in the 'speeds and feeds'. The biggest upgrades from the previous, Pentium III-based ThinkPad X30 are significantly improved battery life along with more competitive speed.

  • IBM ThinkPad T40 picture
  • ThinkPad T40 - a complete revision of IBM's mid-weight desktop-equivalent laptop with a new thinner, sleaker, and lighter design (seen at right) that weighs about half a pound less than the Mobile Pentium 4-based ThinkPad T30 did.

All four of these laptop models are available form the University's Computer Connection.

For More Reading

Intel's Centrino web site

ISC's Laptop Computer Purchasing Guide

-- John Mulhern III, Nicholas Allen, Vern Yoneyama, & Robert Barron, ISC Technology Support Services (March 14, 2003)


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