More than 15 months after Intel Corp. introduced its Pentium 4 processor for the desktop, the giant chipmaker on Monday finally released a mobile version of the product targeting consumer-oriented full-size and thin-and-light notebook PCs.
The reason for the delay in releasing the mobile Pentium 4-M was largely due to the challenge of tweaking the relatively power-hungry and hot-running desktop processor into a cooler operating and more energy efficient chip needed for use in notebook designs.
"We used that time to optimize the Pentium 4 design for the mobile environment and todays thinner and lighter notebooks," said Don MacDonald, director of marketing for Intels Mobile Platform Group, citing the integration of the companys energy-saving SpeedStep technology and development of a more power-efficient chip set.
In general, the Pentium 4 posed a special challenge for Intel, an industry analyst said, because the chips high-performance, high-energy architecture is poorly suited for todays notebook market, where customers want longer battery life.
"The Pentium 4 wasnt designed to be a good notebook part," said Kevin Krewell, a microprocessor analyst with Cahners In-Stat/MDR, in Sunnyvale, Calif.
In particular, the Pentium 4 architecture features more execution pipeline stages, twice as many as the Pentium IIIs, which helps boost the CPUs performance, but also consumes more power. Also, the chip runs hotter, spurring PC makers to rely more heavily on fans to cool the chip, which can further reduce battery life.
"The Pentium 4 is great for the desktop, where you are less concerned about power, because you can greatly increase the chip frequency," Krewell said. "But in mobile, more pipeline stages waste a lot of energy because youre charging and discharging many more registers, as opposed to doing real work with that energy."
At peak performance, the 1.7GHz mobile Pentium 4 consumes about 30 watts, which is the maximum limit for many of the largest notebooks on the market. By contrast, a 1.2GHz mobile Pentium III operating at peak performance consumes slightly more than 20 watts. The Pentium 4 designed for use in desktops consumes 50 to 60 watts.
To reduce energy demands, the mobile Pentium 4 features Enhanced SpeedStep power-saving technology, which can scale back processor speeds to a predetermined level to reduce energy consumption. Specifically, the mobile 1.7GHz and 1.6GH P4s will scale down to 1.2GHz in battery-optimized mode, significantly reducing power consumption.
Intel contends that under normal operating conditions, the mobile Pentium 4 will consume an average of less than 2 watts when operating in the battery-optimized mode.
To further ease power consumption, the processors will be packaged with a new energy-saving chip set, the 845MP, which includes such first-time features as a graphics power management mode and an internal timer that automatically turns off the chip set clock when the chipset is inactive.
The 845MP also is the first mobile chip set designed by Intel to support double-data-rate SDRAM, an increasingly popular high-speed memory technology.
Overall, the chip set supports up to 1GB of DDR 266MHz SDRAM, and includes a 400MHz system bus, AGP 4X for external graphic and support for 6 USB ports.
The 1.7GHz and 1.6GHz chips are priced at $508 and $401, and the 845MP chipset is listed at $43, all based on 1,000-unit quantities.
With the release of the chip, several major PC manufacturers this week introduced new notebooks featuring the mobile Pentium 4s, including Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Toshiba. The new notebooks are being primarily targeted at the consumer market, where there is usually the highest demand for fast-running processors.