Intel Adds Power to Performance Laptops

Intel expanded its roster of mobile processors this week with its first 90-nanometer chips designed specifically for larger notebooks that offer greater performance but with less mobility.

The three new Mobile Intel Pentium 4 processors--models 538, 532, and 518--are also the second group of chips to come with Intel's new processor numbering system. The Santa Clara, California, company introduced the numbering system last month as a way of communicating processor performance without Intel's traditional focus on clock speed.

Intel's Pentium M processor for thin-and-light notebooks enjoys a higher profile than the Mobile Intel Pentium 4 chip, but the two products are targeted at different segments of the notebook market. The Mobile Intel Pentium 4 is designed for the desktop-replacement category of notebooks, which has been very popular among consumers that are more concerned with performance and price than with weight and battery life.

The Mobile Intel Pentium 4 is based on the same 90-nanometer Prescott core as Intel's desktop Pentium 4 processors. The new 538, 532, and 518 chips run at 3.2 GHz, 3.06 GHz, and 2.8 GHz, and cost $294, $234, and $202, respectively, in quantities of 1000 units.

Power Hungry

In its specification datasheets for the new Mobile Intel Pentium 4 chips, Intel advised notebook manufacturers that the new 90-nanometer processors would consume 88 watts under maximum conditions, as compared to the 76 watts consumed by the 0.13-micron version of the Mobile Intel Pentium 4 under similar circumstances.

Intel's first 90-nanometer Pentium 4 processors consume more power than older chips based on the 0.13-micron process generation. Usually chip makers are able to reduce the power consumption of their products when making the transition to a new process technology, but this has not been the case with Prescott.

Part of the increase comes from enhancements built into the 90-nanometer chips. The new Mobile Intel Pentium 4 processors have 1MB of Level 2 cache, twice as much as older Mobile Intel Pentium 4 processors, as well as 13 new instructions that improve the performance of multimedia applications. The rest of the power increase is thought to come from current leakage at the smaller dimensions of the 90-nanometer process technology, analysts have said when discussing the Prescott processors.

Power management features such as Intel's SpeedStep technology are included with the new mobile processors to help match the clock speed of the processor with the requirements of a specific application task, but notebooks with the new processors will need to be designed with the higher thermal output in mind. Desktop replacement notebooks are generally equipped with heavier heat shields than their thin-and-light counterparts because of the extra heat dissipated by processors running at faster clock speeds.

Intel also released a new Celeron M processor this week for budget notebooks. The Celeron M processor is based on the same architecture as the Pentium M processor, but contains half as much cache. This makes for a less expensive, albeit less powerful processor that costs $134 in quantities of 1000 units.

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