Review Index:

Intel Centrino 2 Platform Launches - New CPUs and Hybrid Graphics

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Intel

Chipset features and switchable, hybrid graphic

Intel 45 Express chipset for Centrino 2 also introduces some new
features to the mobile platform including dual-channel DDR3 memory
support, switchable and dual graphics options and battery saving memory
management.  The mention of CrossFire support is interesting - as far
as I can tell this is the first time we have officially seen AMD/ATI
graphics going multi-GPU on the mobile front.  And of course this means
that SLI support is likely not going to happen - we know that NVIDIA
likes to keep those goodies for themselves most of the time

of the storage features that the desktop south bridge chips from Intel
have enjoyed for years are also on the Centrino 2 platform.  SATA 3.0
Gbps, Matrix Storage Manager, eSATA, RAID and more are all added with
this mobile refresh. 

You'll love switchable graphics - this guy does

mentioned switchable graphics above as a new power savings technology
from Intel, but what exactly is it?  Think of it as NVIDIA's Hybrid SLI
technology for a notebook rather than a desktop; a notebook that has
both discrete and integrated graphics (as all Centrino 2 systems will
have) can either automatically or manually be switched from operating
on either GPU solution.  This way you can see the benefits of an IGP
solution for battery life concerns when necessary or utilize the
performance of a discrete GPU solution for gaming sessions when battery
life isn't an issue. 

we still haven't learned about Intel's move to switchable graphics is
which of the major players are involved and supported?  I would think
that AMD's GPUs would be the first to cooperate with Intel's mobile
unit on this as they still dominate discrete GPU market share.  Intel
mentioned "vendors" several times in our discussions but there is
nothing to indicate that NVIDIA or AMD is involved - but at least one
of them has to be. 

This could finally be the answer to that age-old
quest to "have your cake and eat to" by getting extended battery life
AND good gaming performance on a notebook. 

mentioned before that Centrino 2 has updates to wireless technologies -
with Montevina they are adding in support for draft-N wireless
connectivity.  What is most surprising about this is that it is still
DRAFT, non-final spec; Intel usually waits for the standard or creates
them but they obviously as frustrated as the rest of us with the
situation.  Their implementation can support up to 450 Mbps connections
with the WiFi Link 5300 chip.

part of Intel's push for energy efficiency is the idea of "hurry up and
get idle".  Basically, this describes the theory that even if a
processor uses more power at load than another CPU, if it can get the
work that needs to be done completed a certain amount faster than the
less power consuming CPU, the former will actually use less TOTAL power
and thus bring you longer battery life in the long run. 

Intel compares the 2.80 GHz Core 2 Dou CPU from the
Centrino 2 platform to the Pentium and Celeron processors in this
diagram; reversing the math shows us that Centrino 2 CPU uses up about
13.5 Milliwatt-hours per second of processing compared to 11.7 and 10.9
Milliwatt-hours per second on the Pentium and Celeron parts.  However,
because the Centrino 2 Core 2 Duo is done SO much faster it uses much
less total energy to get the work done.

on the Centrino 2 platforms is shown above: I don't really have a
reference to see how these compare to other Intel mobile processors
though I did see the Core 2 Duo mobile T9300, a 45nm chip that runs at
2.5 GHz with an 800 MHz FSB, selling for $319 at various online stores

Final Thoughts and Looking Forward

the release of the Intel Centrino 2 platform is another big move for a
segment of the market that largely depends on Intel to keep the wheel
rolling.  GPU, memory and ODM vendors all time their products around
Intel's mobile cycles so you can expect announcements from NVIDIA,
AMD/ATI and of course all the various notebook manufacturers throughout
the coming weeks as Montevina makes the rounds.  

Fujitsu T5010 Centrino 2

The new technologies in the Centrino 2 platform
range from the mediocre to incredibly exciting for the enthusiast
user.  An update to 1066 MHz front-side bus speeds versus 533 MHz and
800 MHz FSBs is not getting my heart racing and neither is the updated
integrated Intel graphics solution; you'll notice there were no gaming
benchmarks on display from Intel during this launch.  What is exciting
for us is the move to 802.11n wireless technologies - finally no
penalty for wireless PCs in your home or office! - and the switchable
graphics solutions.  We have long wanted a 15" notebook that could play
some games on our longer business trips but still able to playback a
movie or two while doing some work on long flights across the country. 
If Intel and the GPU vendors can get this technology working well it
could finally be the answer!

We are excited to see what Intel and the notebook
manufacturers are going to start showing today and in the coming weeks
based on Centrino 2 - here's to a wireless world in which we can ALL
get what we want. 

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