Intel made some major enhancements to notebook computers when it released its original Centrino product lineup several years ago. Much of the improvements came from the Pentium M processors that radically changed the way Intel's processors worked. This allowed notebook computers to have longer battery life and improved performance over previous mobile designs. The improvements from this eventually lead to the development of the Core line of processors that dominate the market today.
Since that initial Centrino release, Intel has made a number of revisions to the specifications for products that can bear the Centrino name. Much of this involved new processor support and improvements to the bundled wireless networking chips. Now Intel is set to make the next big change to this branding and it includes a new name, Centrino Duo. This article looks at the new hardware specs and what it means for consumers.
Improvements In Centrino Duo
The heart of the new Centrino Duo design is the new GM965 mobile chipset and Core 2 Duo processor combination. There are five key areas of improvement found in this new design that can benefit consumers and their notebook computers.
1. Faster Processors and Chipset
The most notable feature of the Centrino Duo is the new Core 2 Duo mobile processors that will utilize a 800MHz frontside bus. Previous generations of Core 2 Duo processor only supported up to a 667MHz bus speed. This allows the notebooks to use faster DDR2 memory and also provide a general performance boost to memory intensive applications.
2. Improved Battery Life
Battery life improvements are the most practical application of the new design that users will benefit from. Intel previously developed a process called SpeedStep that would reduce the multiplier on the CPU during inactive periods to reduce power consumption. The problem with this is the chipset still would run at its full frontside bus and thus full power. The new chipset and processors allow the bus speed to also vary further reducing power consumption over previous Centrino chipsets. Another feature is the Deep Slumber mode that prevents status requests from waking up the processor when the system was inactive. Both of these combined will add to the general battery life of a notebook.
3. Support For Newer Wireless Standards
For those doing wireless networking, Intel is also adding in wireless chipset support for the draft version of the 802.11n standard. This allows the notebook to run at faster speeds and over greater distances in a compatible wireless network. Even though it is only the draft version now, Intel has promised that a software update will make it compatible with the final 802.11n standard when approved.
4. Intel Turbo Memory (optional)
The Intel Turbo Memory feature is optional for the Centrino Duo badged systems. This is a feature whereby NAND memory is included on the motherboard to take advantage of the new ReadyBoost feature of the Windows Vista operating system. ReadyBoost essentially adds in flash memory as a boost or cache to the existing system memory. This combined with the Windows SuperFetch promises to improve system response times.
5. Improved Integrated Graphics
Finally, Intel is upgrading its integrated graphics solutions to be compatible with the new Vista Aero interface. While the older Intel GMA 950 could run some portions of the Aero interface, it couldn't take full advantage of it. The new X3100 graphics solution increases the performance of the integrated graphics while adding in Clear Video Technology. This helps improve the overall clarity of video by de-interlacing video streams.
In addition to the Centrino Duo badging, Intel is also releasing a Centrino Pro setup as well. This setup essentially has the same features of the Centrino Duo but with the addition of the Intel vPro. Intel vPro is a technology base that is designed to let administrators in a corporate IT environment easily push out configuration changes and software upgrades to a large number of systems. This is not something that the general consumer would use or need but is extremely useful to a large corporation having to update hundreds of machines.
While the new Centrino Duo and Pro specifications do add some significant features to mobile computers, it isn't as large of a change as some of the plans Intel has in store for the later part of 2007 and early 2008. The main benefits that consumers will see is with improved battery life from the new power saving measures. The boosts in speeds won't be as noticeable and some of the features are optional for manufacturers to include. Still, it is good to see Intel continuing to work on upgrading their mobile platforms.
If you are in the market for a new notebook computer system, then you will definitely want to look and see if it is possible to get one badged as a Centrino Duo. Of course, those looking for a bargain will also benefit from the release of the new Centrino Duo systems as well. This should drive down the prices of the older Centrino notebook computers that will still perform quite well for 90% of those using them.