Intel Centrino 2 Launch in SF

Intel has been quite successful at marketing their “Centrino” brand. Many consumers simply think that they “need” Centrino to get Wi-FI, which is a powerful purchase argument. As notebooks continue to take share worldwide, Intel is officially releasing its Centrino 2 and Centrino 2 vPro offerings today (laptops have already been announced by partners), so what is it and what’s new?

Advertising

Often falsely described as a “processor” or “processors”, Centrino 2 basically is a “package” or “combo” of Intel chips with the following elements:

  • Intel CPU
  • Intel Chipset (it controls the main board) with Integrated Graphics (cheap but slow)
  • WiFi-N (the fastest) adapter and an *optional* WiMAX wireless networking adapter
  • (wired) Gigabit Ethernet (vPro only)

In this post, we’ll go over what the specifications mean to you as a consumer (performance, form factor, connectivity and battery life) and what you can expect. We’ll also follow the first real-world tests as they come up.

Performance

It’s expected that faster processors will be part of the package, but what’s interesting is that the newer Intel integrated graphics processor (IGP) should be much better. Historically, Intel’s IGPs have targeted productivity applications (think of it as “free” graphics) but the newer version will be friendlier to multimedia applications, including Blu-Ray videos, which the previous IGP could not handle. For instance, it’s possible to build a laptop with a high-end Core 2 X9100 3.06Ghz (processor just announced) with a TDP (Thermal Power Design) of 44. For comparison, the TDP of a desktop Core 2 QX9650 3 at 3.0Ghz is 136W.

In other notable graphics improvement, we can also see the support for

  • HDMI
  • DisplayPort
  • CrossFire Dual GPUs
  • Update (5pm): Intel has confirmed that NVIDIA SLI is also coming

Form factor

Small is beautiful. Centrino 2 will allow manufacturers to build thinner laptops (think Macbook Air), thanks to lower-power and cooler chips. Hopefully, we’ll see more laptops like the Voodoo Envy 133 soon!

Connectivity

Given the market share that Intel has with Centrino, it’s fair to say that Wi-Fi N is going to become ubiquitous, just like Wifi-G did. The good news is that Wi-Fi N routers should become much cheaper very quickly. In bulk prices, Wifi costs $19 to $30 while WiMax costs $44 to $54

  • 300Mbps Intel Wi-Fi Link 5150
  • 450Mbps Intel Wi-Fi Link 5350

Those with Centrino vPro will get Gigabit Ethernet – a cool thing to have if access big chunks of data often on a network attached storage (NAS) device.

Battery life

It’s probably the most important aspect of a laptop. The good news is that Centrino 2 has improvements across the board. The result is that the battery of a centrino system should last long enough to watch a Blu-Ray movie.

  • Switchable Graphics: use the integrated or the discrete graphics – there’s no need to manually switch anymore. Update (5:15pm): we just saw a demo and it takes less than a minute to switch from Discrete GPU to IGP. It’s not as cool as NVIDIA’s Hybrid Power, but hey, it’s still beter than a reboot.
  • Low-power CPU: 25W (standard), 17W (low) and 10W (ultra-low)
  • Lower-power DDR3 (25%)
  • Various energy-savings improvement on the platform

IT Stuff

Centrino vPro also brings management features that will make you IT staff really happy, but we’ll skip this part as you will probably find it quite boring. IT folks will be in awe when it comes to remote help capabilities and deployment. with vPro, IT can wake up your computer wven when it’s off, and not connected by wired ethernet. That means that the wireless module is ON all the time – but only if you are plugged to an electric outlet. It is NOT possible to wake-up a laptop when it is off and on battery.

Prices!

How much is it? Well here’s a list of (bulk) prices that will provide “some idea” of what it costs, but really, you should look at the actual price of the computer.

CPU PRices

  • $851 Intel Core 2 Extreme X9100 3.06Ghz, 6MB cache, 44W TDP
  • $530 Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 2.80Ghz, 6MB cache, 35W TDP
  • $316 Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 2.53Ghz, 6MB cache, 25W TDP
  • $209 Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 2.26Ghz, 3MB cache, 25W TDP

The chipset costs between $39 and $54.

Filed in Computers >Top Stories..

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