New mobile Pentiums ready for take-off

Intel's new Pentium III-M processors--known as Tualatin--will finally see the light of day next Monday. A bevy of PC makers is expected to show laptops with the chips at the launch.
Written by John G. Spooner, Contributor and  Richard Shim, Contributor
One of the worst-kept secrets in the tech world will be unveiled Monday, when Intel launches its new Pentium III-M mobile processors.

Intel will host an event on Monday introducing five new Pentium III-M chips, ZDNet News has learned. Many of the major PC manufacturers also are expected to be on hand to announce support for the new chips in updated notebook PCs.

Top-level Intel executives, including Intel executive vice president Paul Otellini, will discuss the strategy for the Pentium III-M and touch on Intel's other Pentium III processors built on the 0.13-micron manufacturing process, including server and desktop PC chips. The 0.13-micron process allows for smaller circuits to be printed on chips, increasing processing power and energy efficiency.

Collectively, these 0.13-micron Pentium III semiconductors are referred to as "Tualatin" chips by the company. Intel will focus on selling the chips in the mobile market, with the Pentium 4 aimed at the desktop segment.

Analysts believe the price and performance of the new chips will help continue the reduction of the gap between notebooks and desktops.

"I think that as you shrink lines (from the current 0.18-micron process to the 0.13-micron process), it allows you to get closer and closer to the performance of a desktop," IDC analyst Roger Kay said.

The new Pentium III chips will also come with 512KB of Level 2 cache, high-speed memory that shuttles data to and from the processor. The added cache will provide notebooks with an additional performance boost over previous generations.

At the same time, falling system-memory prices have led many of the PC makers to include up to twice as much memory in their new notebooks. Though the new notebooks pack greater features, their prices are expected to be on a par with previous models, giving buyers more performance for the dollar.

PC makers including Compaq Computer, Dell Computer, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sony are expected to tout Pentium III-M notebooks at the Intel launch event.

Intel is expected to announce five new Pentium III-M clock speeds, including 866MHz, 933MHz, 1GHz, 1.06GHz and 1.13GHz, along with a new mobile chipset. The new components will increase the performance of notebook PCs while lowering power consumption, giving notebook buyers more bang for the buck.

In addition, the new Intel chips will offer "Enhanced SpeedStep," a version of the company's power-management technology that allows the chip to reduce clock speed and voltage automatically while on battery power. The goal of the feature is to allow a notebook to pump up clock speed when needed by an application. Previous mobile Pentium III chips switched between two fixed clock speed and voltage settings, with the lower speed used while running on battery power.

Also on Monday, Intel will announce its new mobile chipset with integrated graphics, dubbed the Intel 830. The chipset, known by the code name Almador, was designed to work with all sizes of notebooks, eliminating the need for three other Intel chipsets, including the 440BX, the 440MX and the 815. By standardizing on the 830, PC makers will be able to build several different notebooks with the same basic design, saving on research and development.

For now, most notebook makers are expected to carry on with their current designs, gradually adopting the new chipset later in the year.

The 830's one kicker, sources say, may be that it has only a 133MHz front-side bus--the data pipeline between the processor and the main memory. Intel and PC makers see this move as bringing more performance to the mainstream notebook market, as increases in bus speed usually net a few percentage points in performance.

But current mobile chipsets support both 100MHz and 133MHz. Offering only the faster speed limits the number of Celeron chips available to it, as Intel has yet to increase the bus on mobile Celeron chips to 133MHz. The company, however, plans to move to a 133MHz bus with an 866MHz mobile Celeron due later in the quarter, sources familiar with the company's plans said.

Pentium III-M notebooks
Most new Pentium III-M notebooks are expected to cost less than US$2,500.

IBM will brandish new T-series ThinkPad notebooks. The new models will include new integrated wireless 802.11 and Bluetooth as well as additional security features, sources familiar with its plans said.

Dell will launch a new Inspiron 8000 series notebook priced around US$1,700 and a new Latitude 800 series notebook priced around US$2,500. The company is expected to announce a second Inspiron with Pentium III-M and the new 830 chipset later in the year, sources said.

Meanwhile, HP will equip an Omnibook 6100 series notebook with the 1.13GHz Pentium III-M chip and either 128MB or 256MB of RAM as well as 16MB of video memory and two USB ports, sources said.

Sony will launch two new Vaio notebooks. Its PCG-GR150K will sport a 14.1-inch display along with an 866MHz Pentium III-M processor, 128MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive. Its PCG-GR170K upgrades to a 1.13GHz Pentium III-M, 256MB of RAM and a 14.1-inch SXGA+ display. Sony also will announce a new strategy to market Vaio notebooks, always good sellers in retail, to business customers.

Compaq is also expected to offer all five Pentium III-M speeds in its Presario 1700 series of notebooks, at prices ranging from about US$1,550 to US$1,850. The company also will announce an Evo thin-and-light notebook with the new chips, sources said. The new Evo will join Compaq's Evo N200 mini-notebook displayed at PC Expo this year. The Evo N200 is expected in September and will use a low-power version of the Pentium III-M chip due out later in the year.

Gateway will show off two new high-end notebooks, additions to its existing Solo 9500 series of notebooks. The company plans to ship them at a later date.

Although the Monday announcement marks the official Pentium III-M launch, Intel has been shipping Pentium III chips manufactured on the 0.13-micron process for several weeks.

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