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CeBIT - Intel starts Centrino push and launches Pentium M

Intel has officially launched its Centrino package, which includes the latest addition to the company's mobile processor line-up alongside a companion chipset and a wireless LAN chip.

Centrino is based around the Pentium M processor, formerly known as Banias, which incorporates a chip architecture that is different to that used with Intel's other mobile processors, such as the Pentium 4-M. The result is a chip that offers greater performance and longer battery life than the Pentium 4-M.

The company introduced four standard versions of the Pentium M processor running at speeds of 1.6GHz, 1.5GHz, 1.4GHz, and 1.3GHz. Intel is also offering a low-voltage version that runs at 1.1GHz for and an ultra-low-voltage chip running at 900MHz.

The Pentium M offers higher performance than the Pentium 4-M, according to Intel, which said the 1.6GHz Pentium M offers a 13% to 15% improvement in performance over the 2.4GHz Pentium 4-M. The 1.6GHz Pentium M also offers 76% longer battery life than the 2.4GHz Pentium 4-M, Intel claimed.

The lower clock speeds, however, may puzzle end users who have become accustomed to Intel's emphasis on the connection between higher clock speeds and greater performance.

However, Kitty Fok, director of personal systems research at analyst group IDC said, "Just looking at the CPU speed doesn't reflect the actual performance anymore."

Hoping to avoid confusion among users and potential customers, Intel is pushing the Pentium M and Pentium 4-M processors to different market segments.

The Pentium M and Centrino target mobile users who want wireless LAN access and longer battery life. The Pentium 4-M, on the other hand, is intended for what Intel calls the portability market, essentially users who carry their notebooks from one office to another.

In addition to the Pentium M processor, Centrino includes an Intel 855 chipset, which supports a 400MHz front-side bus, and the Intel PRO/Wireless 2100 wireless LAN chip. The 855GM chipset also includes integrated graphics based on Intel's Extreme Graphics 2 technology.

Among the suppliers that showed off Centrino-based PCs at CeBit were Acer, Fujitsu, IBM, Legend Group, NEC, Samsung Electronics, Sanyo and Toshiba.

Intel expected to see Centrino account for 30% of all mobile processors by the end of this year and for half of mobile sales for high-end laptops.

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