Pentium 4-M chills out in notebooks

The Pentium 4 mobile chip has arrived, with tweaks for extending battery life, but some notebook makers are already using the cheaper desktop P4 port

Intel has launched its hotly anticipated mobile Pentium 4 processors, having stepped up the launch schedule amidst pressure from PC makers eager to update their laptop computer offerings.

The Pentium 4-M processor is the first time the Pentium 4 architecture has been available specifically for portable computers, a step largely made possible by shrinking the chip to a 0.13-micron manufacturing process and decreasing the size of the silicon die. The new P4 includes 55 million transistors, a good 25 percent more than the PIII-M, and includes a range of features designed to protect battery life while delivering what Intel claims is a 43 percent performance increase over the PIII-M.

The Northwood P4 processor, using the 0.13-micron design rule, was first introduced in desktop chips in January.

The introduction comes not a day too soon for PC makers, some of whom have already made the controversial decision to introduce laptops based on the desktop P4. Intel did not recommend these laptops, but didn't move to stop their introduction -- partly because they allowed the Pentium 4 to arrive in a mobile form several weeks early, according to industry observers.

ZDNet UK tests showed that the Pentium 4 desktop chip had no problem powering a desktop-replacement laptop with decent battery life. Using the desktop chip also allows manufacturers to shave hundreds of pounds off laptop retail prices: for example, the mobile P4 running at 1.7GHz costs £355, compared with £114 for a desktop processor at the same clock speed.

However, Intel claims the P4-M will be far more attractive to users who place battery life at a premium. The chip uses power management features such as SpeedStep, Deeper Sleep Alert and Mobile Voltage Positioning to reduce clock speed and power usage when it isn't needed, delivering what Intel says is the same 3.5-hour average battery life as the PIII-M.

ZDNet UK will publish full P4-M tests on Tuesday.

Intel is counting on the increasing popularity of wireless networking -- and the availability of wireless LAN access points in many areas, especially in the US -- to drive demand for the mobile P4. "Wireless connectivity will change the way you use your PC. The mobile Pentium 4-M enables seamless, smooth-and-speedy file and multimedia transfers without putting unnecessary drain on your battery," said Anand Chandrasekher, vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobile Platforms Group, in a statement.

The new chip is available in 1.6GHz and 1.7GHz versions for $401 (£280) and $508 (£355), respectively, in 1,000-unit quantities. It includes 512k of on-die L2 memory cache and Intel's Netburst micro-architecture, which consists of a 400MHz processor system bus, Hyper Pipelined technology, an execution trace cache, a rapid execution engine and streaming SIMD extensions. Netburst is Intel's term for the internal processor bandwidth enhancements built into the Pentium 4.

Intel is also selling a mobile version of the 845 chipset, the 845MP, which offers external AGP 4x graphics, a 400MHZ processor system bus and up to 1GB of DDR 266MHz SDRAM memory. The 845MP is a high-end chipset with support for an external graphics card; the 845MZ, a version with integrated graphics to reduce system cost, will arrive later this year.

The P4-M is expected to replace the "Tualatin" PIII-M soon, but this chip will continue to be used in tablet PCs and mini-notebooks, where low power consumption is even more critical than in a standard laptop, Intel says.


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