Centrino laptops show impressive performance

Analysis: Intel's work on the Centrino family of laptop computing chips appears to have paid off, with systems reaching both high performance and long battery life, according to tests
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Intel's Centrino chip family for laptops has impressed ZDNet UK Labs testers with its high performance -- outperforming Pentium 4-M processors -- and battery life that matches the longest achievable with the older Pentium III-M chips. (See the full report: Centrino: A new dawn for notebooks?)

The group of chips, which includes the Pentium-M processor, 855PM and 855GM chipsets and PRO/Wireless Network Connection Mini-PCI card, made its debut in a range of notebooks from several manufacturers on Wednesday. The debut marks the fruition of a long campaign for Intel, during which it has promised that the new family of chips would deliver longer battery life for laptops without sacrificing power.

According to ZDNet UK Labs, Intel's work appears to have paid off, matching or surpassing both the battery life of Intel's most efficient chip, the Pentium III-M, and the performance of its highest-powered processor, the Pentium 4-M. "A 1.6GHz Pentium M outperforms a 2.4GHz Pentium 4-M while delivering around 50 percent longer battery life," testers found.

Acer's TravelMate 800 was found to be a particularly good implementation of the Centrino technology; the laptop "sets an early benchmark for Pentium-M/Centrino notebooks", testers wrote. The laptop, with built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and a 1.6GHz Pentium-M, scored 20.5 percent better on mainstream application performance benchmarks compared to a Sony laptop based on 2.4GHz Pentium 4-M.

However, performance did not touch that of a Dell Inspiron 5100 laptop running a 2.8GHz desktop Pentium 4, which reached 42.4 in the Content Creation Winstone 2002 benchmark compared with 35.5 for Acer's TravelMate.

Significantly, however, the Pentium-M's mainstream-level performance does not come at the price of battery life, tests found: two benchmarks found the Acer laptop lasted about 4 hours 40 minutes with normal usage. It could be tweaked to reach 5 hours, although this did involve a significant performance hit.

"This... really is a new departure for portable computing," testers wrote.

Sony's VAIO PCG-Z1SP Centrino laptop also showed similar performance and battery life, though only with an optional long-life battery. With the standard battery, a charge lasted only about 3 hours.

To find out more about the computers and hardware that these chips are being used in, see ZDNet UK's Hardware News Section.

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