Vendors hope Intel's new chip will boost sales

Notebook manufacturers all across Asia hope to see renewed confidence in customer spending with the entry of Intel's latest notebook processor, the Pentium III-M.

SINGAPORE--Notebook manufacturers all across Asia hope to see renewed confidence in customer spending with the entry of Intel's latest notebook processor, the Pentium III-M.

Intel launched its new mobile Pentium III-M processor Monday at speeds of 866MHz, 933MHz, 1GHz, 1.06GHz and 1.13GHz.

The main change in the Pentium III-M, code-named Tualatin, is that the chips will be manufactured on a 0.13-micron process, which allows smaller circuits to be printed on the chip. Current Pentium III chips are built on a 0.18-micron process. Smaller circuits mean more processing power and less power consumption.

Unveiling the chip in Singapore Tuesday, Intel country manager Lai Yit Loong said that the 0.13 micron process will eventually make its way into desktops and servers. But for now, the time was ripe for a tailor-made mobile processor.

"In Japan, 50 per cent of all PC sales are notebooks. It's a lifestyle product," Lai said. With the rest of Asia lagging far behind in notebook penetration, there was "significant upside" for manufacturers, he added.

Vendors are hoping for the powerful new chip, targeted at mobile computers, to spark consumer interest in the current sluggish IT market, said one Intel partner .

The Pentium III-M also includes a number of small tweaks that boost performance to go along with decreased power consumption. Intel hopes the enhancements will encourage consumers to move up to new laptops, despite the slow PC market.

Intel says the fastest of the new chips, the 1.13GHz, will offer a 25 percent to 45 percent performance boost from the current 1GHz mobile Pentium III, depending on the application being used. The increase comes from additional clock speed and 512KB of high-speed Level 2 cache memory--twice as much cache as in current Pentium IIIs. The Pentium III-M also sports a pre-fetch feature that predicts to an extent the data needed by the processor and retrieves it ahead of time, further increasing performance.

The new processors also include an improvement on the power-saving SpeedStep technology already found in Pentium chips for notebooks. Enhanced SpeedStep is a more aggressive and dynamic version of SpeedStep and automatically switches between maximum-performance mode and battery-optimized mode, depending on the needs of the application being run. The previous version of SpeedStep only went into power conservation mode when the notebook was unplugged from a power outlet.

At the launch here, six notebook makers demonstrated products featuring the new processor, which Intel claims outpaces the current Pentium III in speed and power savings for mobile computers.

Dell showed off its Inspiron 8100 desktop replacement notebook, running the CPU at its current top speed of 1.13GHz. Priced at S$4,388.00, it features 128MB SDRAM, 15-inch SXGA+ display, 8X Max DVD-ROM, 20GB ATA-100 hard drive and a 32MB Nvidia GeForce2Go graphics chipset.

Dell also announced the availability of a second desktop replacement, the Latitude C810, starting at S$5,115.00. Running the PIII-M at 1.13GHz, it comes with 128MB SDRAM, a 15-inch UXGA display, 16MB Nvidia GeForce2Go graphics chipset and a 10GB hard drive.

Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard's Omnibook 6100 running at 1.13GHz will debut in September. Pricing is expected to start at around S$4,500.

IBM, displaying its upcoming T23, will launch the notebook here in about a month, a company spokesperson said. Although pricing details have yet to be confirmed, she said that the 2.1 kg product will come with either an 866MHz or 1.13GHz PIII-M. It will also be among the first to feature built-in wireless networking.

Big Blue, which completely refreshed its ThinkPad portable line, captured the top spot in worldwide notebook shipments during the fourth quarter. With 13.5 percent market share, Armonk, New York-based IBM toppled Toshiba, which, at 12.5 percent share, lost 1.5 points year over year and fell to third place, according to Dataquest.

Second-ranked Dell moved up one position from a year earlier, gaining 1.5 points to 13 percent share while Compaq dropped from third to fourth place year over year with 12 percent market share. Sony knocked NEC out of the fifth place, gaining 1.5 points to 6.5 percent share, Dataquest said.

Staff writers John G Spooner and Richard Shim contributed to this report.

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