Intel is set to launch Centrino 2, its latest mobile processor, which the company claimed would deliver better performance to laptopsl. The launch is Intel's first major Centrino upgrade after its predecessor was launched in 2003.

The new platform, which will offer more power-efficient Core 2 Duo chips running between 2.26GHz and 3.06GHz, will also include support for 802.11n wireless networking and WiMax wireless broadband, allowing laptop users to connect wirelessly with record speed and range, company spokesman, Elvin Ong in an Intel blog.

The platform will include Penryn chips manufactured using the 45-nanometre process, with three of the new processors running at 25 watts for better power-efficiency compared to 35 watts in earlier Centrino notebook processors, Ong wrote.

A big Centrino 2 advantage is improved graphics, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. The new GM45 integrated graphics card supports DirectX 10 to handle 3D graphics and high-definition content. It also is capable of off-loading the processor by taking on heavier graphics loads.

"You have enough power ... to watch a Blu-ray movie before the battery dies. If you had Blu-ray in previous notebooks, the battery would give out before the movie got interesting," Brookwood said.

The improved graphics chipset also is more competitive with that from AMD, whose integrated graphics technology in the Puma notebook platform raised the bar in handling high-definition content. "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.

Multiple vendors are expected to announce Centrino 2 laptops next week. However many are already in the wild, with European vendor Santech offering the X46 laptop, with Core 2 Duo chips, 4GB of RAM, a 15.4-inch display, WiMax capabilities and wireless A/G/N networking, priced starting at €619 (£335).

Earlier this year Pioneer Computers, an Australian PC maker, became one of the earliest to offer Centrino 2 chips in its configurable DreamBook Style 9008 laptop with Core 2 Duo processors, a 15.4-inch screen and up to 4GB of RAM starting at A$1,399 (£680).

Chip resellers like Digital Spyders and Provantage are offering a Centrino 2 chip, the Core 2 Duo T9600, running at 2.8GHz with 6MB of cache, for around US$570. The dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo T9400, which runs at 2.53GHz and includes 6MB of cache, is available for between $330 to $360 (£167 - £182) on retail websites.
A wide variety of other Core 2 models are available from other sources online as well.

Beyond Centrino 2, Intel has new products on the horizon that reduce chip size and consume less power. In 2007, Intel talked about shrinking the normal chip size by up to 60 percent for the Centrino 2 platform. Intel officials declined comment on whether it is launching smaller chips next week.

The company earlier this year announced it was working on a platform code-named Calpella, the successor to Centrino 2, which is due for release next year.