Intel has launched Centrino 2, its latest mobile platform, which the company claims will increase laptop battery life while delivering speedier performance and faster wireless connectivity, though the WiMax module is delayed till later this year.
After four refreshes, the new chipset platform is Intel's first major Centrino upgrade after its predecessor was launched in 2003. Running faster processors, the Centrino 2 platform feature will better multimedia performance while consuming less power, the company said.
The specification has reportedly been delayed because of Wi-Fi problems and there have been doubts over whether it would include WiMax. In the end, WiMax is included in the specification, but vendors including Lenovo are delivering it later in the year.
Laptops with the Centrino 2 platform include Core 2 Duo processors running between 2.26GHz and 3.06GHz, a graphics chipset capable of handling high-definition graphics and a wireless chipset. Three of the new Core 2 Duo processors run at 25 watts for lower power consumption compared to earlier processors, which ran at 35 watts of higher.
Intel plans to ship a quad-core Core 2 chip for the platform later this year for gaming, said Mooly Eden, vice president of Intel's mobile platforms group, during a launch event in San Francisco. Centrino 2 chips are manufactured using the 45-nanometer process.
Wireless connectivity features in the wireless chipset includes support for 802.11n wireless networking and - later in the year - WiMax wireless broadband. Laptop vendors like Lenovo are planning to offer additional mobile broadband options like UWB (ultra-wideband) in future Centrino 2 laptops.
Some users spend more time with their laptops than their wives, so it was important to include better entertainment options on Centrino 2 laptops, Eden said.
The laptops will be able to handle 3D graphics and high-definition content through the new GMA X4500MHD integrated graphics processor. The chipset supports DirectX 10 and is capable of off-loading the processor by taking on heavier graphics loads by hardware-based decoding. Users will be able to watch a two-hour Blu-ray movie on a single six-cell battery charge, Intel officials said.
"The world is going to high-definition... it will happen this year or next year," Eden said. By 2013, the number of Blu-ray drives shipping in laptops will outnumber Blu-ray drive shipments in game consoles, he said.
To improve multimedia performance while saving battery life in laptops, Intel has added technology called Switchable graphics to the Centrino 2 platform. The laptops can switch from a discrete graphics card to an integrated graphics processor when running on a battery. Users will have the option to switch between cards either manually or automatically.
Intel also announced Centrino 2 for vPro, which has security management features allowing remote fixes.
The new platform and its graphics chipset make the company more competitive with Advanced Micro Devices, whose Puma laptop platform raised the bar in handling high-definition content, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. "Integrated graphics has never been Intel's strong point in the notebook [space]. They are committed to eliminating graphics as a source of competitive weakness," Brookwood said.
Companies including Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and Fujitsu have announced new business and ultraportable laptops based on the Centrino 2 platform.
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