Centrino: Finally, Real Processor Advance

Taschek: Centrino represents an amazing difference and will change how we use notebooks.

Intel is finally getting its mobile computing strategy right. after years of pushing processor performance as a feature thats more important than battery life, Intels Centrino delivers better performance without sacrificing battery life.

The secret sauce comes from a series of components that Intel has branded Centrino, which may sound like a late-1960s-model Oldsmobile. Centrino, however, is first a brand that Intel surely paid a lot of money to secure and, second, an efficient performer. (See Tech Analysis on recent benchmark results.)

Centrino represents an amazing difference, and it will change the way we use notebooks. For one thing, well use Centrino-based systems as mobile devices instead of desktop replacements that happen to fit in our briefcases. Well be using some Centrino-based devices on battery all day when equipped with an optional battery pack.

One of my top notebook choices is the IBM ThinkPad X30—a Pentium III-M-based device that can run for 6 hours when equipped with an optional battery. The Centrino-configured X31, however, was more than 40 percent faster in tests and in typical usage, and it had more than 10 percent greater battery life than did the X30.

Most new notebooks are based on the Pentium 4-M. They are surprisingly slower than Centrino-based devices, but Centrino provides more than 50 percent greater battery life.

Meanwhile, Intel faces competition from Transmeta, which offers slower systems in smaller packages. AMDs Mobile Processors are featured in some Compaq (HP) devices. Most of the AMD designs, however, are based on the companys desktop processors, and this wont change until "Odessa" is launched next year.

So where does Intel get it wrong? The company faced some setbacks with its wireless strategy. Intel bet that notebook vendors would go for the Centrino-based 802.11a/802.11b chip set. Intel failed to get the 802.11a ready in time, so the notebook vendors went elsewhere. Then Intel stuck it to them, saying those notebook vendors couldnt call their notebooks "Centrino-based" unless they used the entire package, antiquated wireless technology and all.

Centrino really works—are you as surprised as I am? Write to me at john_taschek@ziffdavis.com.

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