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Notebook vendors introduce Centrino-powered models

By Bob Brewin
March 12, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Intel Corp. formally launched its much-heralded Centrino mobile technology today. Top-tier notebook manufacturers showcased products equipped with the new chip set, which features a five-hour battery life and built-in Wi-Fi capability at prices ranging from $1,399 to $2,200.
At the same time, rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif., introduced its new mobile processor, the low-voltage Athlon XP-M. The Fujitsu PC division of Fujitsu Ltd. in Tokyo, a launch partner, priced its new AMD-powered notebook at $1,199. Fujitsu also unveiled a Centrino notebook line priced at $1,499 and up.
The Centrino consists of a newly designed, low-power-drain Pentium-M chip set and a PRO/Wireless mini-Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) card that handles Wi-Fi connectivity. Intel will offer four standard versions of the Pentium-M running at speeds of 1.6, 1.5, 1.4 and 1.3 GHz and priced at $720, $506, $377 and $292, respectively, in 1,000-unit quantities. The company is also offering a low-voltage version that runs at 1.1 GHz for $345 and an ultralow-voltage chip running at 900 MHz priced at $324.
The Pentium-M offers higher performance than the Pentium 4-M, according to Intel, which said the 1.6-GHz Pentium M offers a 13% to 15% improvement in performance over the earlier 2.4-GHz Pentium 4-M. The 1.6-GHz Pentium M also offers 76% longer battery life than the 2.4-GHz model, according to Intel.
Intel has touted the Wi-Fi capabilities of its Centrino architecture -- and backed this with partnerships with Wi-Fi public-access networks and operators (see story). But competitors pointed out that the Centrino with built-in Wi-Fi can access only mature 802.11b wireless networks that operate in the 2.4-GHz band and have a raw data rate of 11M bit/sec. The Centrino doesn't incorporate the Wi-Fi 802.11a or the 802.11g standard, both of which provide 54M bit/sec. data speeds (in the 5- and 2.4-GHz bands, respectively).
Rich Redelfs, president and CEO of Atheros Communications Inc., a wireless LAN chip manufacturer in Sunnyvale, Calif., said that notebook vendors have the option of using the Pentium-M processor that is at the heart of the Centrino technology with Atheros 802.11a/b WLAN chip sets today and a 802.11g or combined 802.11a/b/g chip sets in the near future.
Major hardware manufacturers that have signed on to use the Atheros 802.11 chip sets include Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Toshiba Corp. and NEC Corp. But Intel -- which has backed the Centrino launch with a $300 million advertising campaign -- won't allow manufacturers to slap on a "Centrino Compatible" logo unless they incorporate both the Pentium-M processor and its Wi-Fi module.
Analysts expect Intel to eventually incorporate all three Wi-Fi

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