The first of Intel's "Dothan" processors has been released today.

Three updated versions of its Pentium M processors - a line of chips for laptop computers - were released as the company looks to build on its success with wireless Internet access using laptop PCs.

The new chips are made using a 90-nanometer production process rather than the 130-nanometer process used to manufacture the older version of the Pentium M chips. With the more advanced process technology, the chips are less expensive to produce and consume less power with greater performance, Intel said.

"This is our first mobile chip based on the 90-nanometer technology and manufactured on 300-millimeter wafers," said company spokesman Nick Knupffer. The nanometer number refers to the width of the circuit lines on a processor, while the 300-millimeter wafers allows for the production of more chips per wafer.

The new line, seen as a drop-in replacement for the previous line of Pentium M chips, formerly known by the codename Banias, have slightly higher clock speeds and similar battery consumption, Knupffer said: "One of its main advancements is that it doubles the Level 2 cache memory, or data storage, to two megabytes."

The Intel Pentium M 735 processor runs at 1.7GHz, the 745 at 1.8GHz and the 755 at 2GHz. When ordered in quantities of 1,000, the processors cost US$294, $423 and $637 (£166, £239, £359) respectively, Intel said.

Intel had been expected to launch Dothan in the first quarter fo this year, but was forced to hold back the release to modify some circuits on the chip to ensure that they could be manufactured in high volumes.

According to market research companies IDC and Gartner, interest in laptops and wireless technology, from both the consumer and enterprise sectors, is a driving factor in the market's growth worldwide. Intel has sought to capitalise on that interest with its Centrino brand, which bundles a Pentium M processor with a chipset and a WLAN (wireless LAN) chipset.

Since Intel introduced Centrino in March of last year, over 130 models of notebook PCs containing the technology have shipped, Knupffer said. Notebook PC manufacturers planning to incorporate the new Pentium M processors include Dell, HP, Sony and Toshiba, Intel said.

Toshiba plans to put the new processors in its current Tecra M2, Tecra M2V and Portege M200 business notebooks, and in future Satellite models for consumers and small businesses.

Industry sources say Intel is making the Banias architecture of the Pentium M processor its primary architecture, a shift away from the Netburst architecture found in its Xeon and Pentium 4 processors. As part of that move, the company announced it is removing two single-core processors from its current road maps - the Tejas and Jayhawk processors planned for 2005 - and replacing them with dual-core chips for all of its processor designs by the end of 2005.

By placing two processor cores on a single die, chip designers can use two lower-power cores to improve performance, even though they take up no more space than an older single-core processor.