Intel boosts dual-core chip to protect its laptop share

The Core 2 Extreme X7800 could be on store shelves in two weeks

Intel Corp. launched a dual-core notebook chip for high-end users today, continuing an effort to defend its share of the fast-growing notebook PC market against Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Intel is selling the new Core 2 Extreme X7800 processor to PC vendors now and says the chip will reach store shelves within two weeks, boosting performance for the hard-core gamers and digital artists who now use laptops powered by Intel's Core Duo T2600.

The company encouraged vendors to push even faster performance by opening the chip's speed protection locks, allowing them to overclock the processor. Some video game fans seek top performance by running chips beyond their rated speed limits on desktop PCs like Dell Inc.'s XPS 720 series. The practice is less common on laptops, which are usually optimized for the best battery endurance.

By concentrating on laptops, Intel is aiming at the sweet spot of the PC market. In recent years, vendors have seen sparse growth in desktop PC shipments, which increased by just single-digit percentages in 2005 and 2006. But demand for laptops is soaring, with global shipments showing increases of 35.9% in 2005, 28.4% in 2006 and an estimated 25.3% in 2007, according to analyst firm iSuppli Corp.

In May, Intel made another effort to push sales of its mobile chips, by launching its Santa Rosa bundle of mobile processors and chip sets, an upgrade to its popular Centrino platform. AMD quickly responded by announcing later that month that it would use a new mobile processor called Griffin as the basis of a collection of processors and chip sets code-named Puma. Those are expected to reach markets in mid-2008.

Intel now hopes to regain the initiative by expanding its Core 2 Extreme brand from high-end desktops to high-end laptops. It is selling the 2.6-GHz Core 2 Extreme X7800 chip for $851.

Also on Monday, Intel announced five new desktop chips, led by the quad-core, 3.0-GHz Core 2 Extreme QX6850, intended for game developers, and the 2.66-GHz Core 2 Quad Q6700. Intel sells those two chips for $999 and $530, respectively, priced in 1,000-unit quantities.

All of Intel's new dual-core chips are in the Core 2 Duo family, including the 3.0-GHz E6850 for $266, the 2.66-GHz E6750 for $183, and the 2.33-GHz E6550 for $163. The company is shipping all the chips now and expects vendors to bring them to markets within two weeks.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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