Intel Centrino 2 Takes Off Running
Today is a special day for Intel as it is the 5thanniversary for the Centrino mobile platform and they are celebrating it with the launch of the Centrino 2 platform (Montevina). Intel started to design the Intel Centrino mobile platform in 1999 and for the time it was cutting edge as WiFi in 1999 was a just dream. When the Intel Centrino platform was launched in 2003 only 16% of notebooks contained Wireless technology (WiFi). Today over 95% of retail notebooks contain WiFi. With Centrino 2, Intel is planning for the future with a platform that is able to adapt to what we need in today’s marketplace.
Intel believes that social networking, user-generated content and visualization are the driving forces in the market today. What platform will bring these uses to the user? Intel believes the Centrino 2 platform will be the perfect match for consumers to bring these driving forces together.
Centrino 2 is made of of three major components, the processor, the wireless card and the chipset. Intel Centrino 2 processors are 45nm Intel Core 2 Duo and Quad processors with up to 6MB L2 cache and a 1066MHz FSB. Intel is introducing the Intel Core 2 Extreme Mobile Processor X9100 which is now the highest performing flagship processor for the Centrino 2 platform and operates at 3.06GHz. Just like other Extreme mobile processors the X9100 has Overspeed protection removed, so consumers will be able to overclock the processor if the notebook allows it. When it comes to TDP ratings the X9100 is mobile friendly at just 44W. Intel showed a demo of the Intel Core 2 Extreme Mobile Processor X9100 playing Ubisoft’s Assassins’ Creed on a notebook with a pair of ATI mobile graphics cards running in CrossFire and the game play looked great!
Other than the new 45nm processors with a faster FSB and more cache the Centrino 2 platform also has a new chipset. The Intel 45 Express Chipset will be the heart and soul of the Centrino 2 platform and has improved graphics thanks to 5th generation graphics that are integrated into the chipset. The improved graphics offer nearly a 2X increase in performance versus previous generation chipsets. The new chipset also support dual channel 800MHz DDR3 memory modules, which offer more bandwidth and consume less battery power. The memory speed bump is an increase of 133MHz which means that consumers can now run 800MHz memory kits versus 667MHz in current Centrino platforms. Intel has said that the Blu-ray playback will be clear and stutter-free with the integrated graphics. Intel also says they can get through the entire Blu-ray movie on the battery, which is a big deal.
Intel says that this is possible thanks to HUGI. What the heck is HUGI? It stands for Hurry Up and Get Idle. Intel has improved the time it takes to get to sleep and to wake up and they claim it has improved battery life by a significant amount. Intel claims that HUGI is the secrect sauce for Centrino 2 as battery life is so important with high definition graphics such as Blu-ray playback. While we are on the subject of Blu-ray Intel made said that by 2013, the number of Blu-ray drives shipping in laptops will outnumber Blu-ray drive shipments in game consoles. Think about that one for a second!
Centrino 2 Goes HUGI and Gets WiMAX
Intel has also made strides with switchable graphics, which works since the system contains two graphics cores. One core will be integrated and the other core will be discrete. Intel is able to save 7W by doing this, which is one and a half hours just by having the ability to switch which graphics core you are using. If you are doing internet surfing you can use the integrated graphics and then flip it over to the discrete graphics for gaming. Pretty neat technology!
The third and final component that makes up the Centrino 2 platform is the Wireless and Intel is pushing WiFi and WiMax for Centrino 2. Intel Centrino 2 based notebooks will have greater range and speed when connecting wirelessly to a wireless draft-N network with the just announced Intel WiFi Link 5000 series. The Intel WiFi Link 5100 is rated at 300Mbps while the Intel WiFi Link 5300 is rated at a faster 450Mbps, which is what Intel claims from true downlink speeds using 802.11g and 802.11n standards. Intel also has a new mini-card and half-mini card form factors that will be used in the sleek and sexy notebook modules that are one quarter the size of the original 2003-2005 Centrino WiFi cards of the time (Intel Pro/Wireless 2100 network cards).
Intel has developed a WiMax and WiFi combination card for the Intel Centrino 2 platform that will be released in the second half of 2008. The new card is called the WiMAX/WiFi Link 5350 and can be seen in the image above. In four to five years time Intel expects WiMAX to be all over the place, but all new technology has speed bumps. Intel recently delayed WiMax by three weeks, but they said today at the launch keynote that the problem has been solved and WiMax is back on track.
The first city to get WiMax will be in Baltimore in September 2008 and other cities will follow like Washington DC down the road. If you want to get a Centrino 2 notebook next month you will be unable to get WiMax. Right now all the shipping notebooks all feature just WiFi cards, but down the road the WiMax ready cards will ready and available for use in Centrino 2.
The Intel Centrino 2 Summary
The above slide shows how Intel improved performance on all the mobility vectors and gives you some percentages of what the performance increases should look like.
In summary, Intel today launched Centrino 2, its latest mobile platform, which Intel claims will increase laptop battery life while delivering better performance and faster wireless connectivity. Intel says that over 250 notebooks are in the works and will start hitting store shelves in August. Of the upcoming ~250 Centrino 2 notebooks that are coming out roughly 30% will feature discrete graphics and the other 70% will feature integrated graphics. Both NVIDIA and ATI brand video cards will be used for discrete graphics and multi-GPU support is available in the form of CrossFire and SLI for those looking to build a Centrino 2 gaming laptop. Those not needing discrete graphics will be using the new GMA X4500MHD integrated graphics processor. The new chipset supports DirectX 10, which is a first for Intel mobile chipsets.
To conclude our story on the Intel Centrino 2 launch we have the pricing info for you, which is hands down one of the most important things with any launch. The above chart also shows the details on the six new 45nm Penryn processors that are being announced today. The new processors will include the Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 (2.26GHz), P8600 (2.40GHz), T9400 (2.53GHz) and the T9600 (2.80GHz). The chips will offer 6MB of L2 cache and a 1066MHz front side bus (FSB) compared to the 800MHz FSB of the previous refresh.
The Intel Centrino 2 platform will be around for some time and it doesn't look that will be a bad thing at all!