Intel 'Santa Rosa' Centrino laptops hit shelves

Solid sales could help its comeback against rival AMD

Intel Corp. launched the "Santa Rosa" upgrade of its Centrino laptop platform today, with the new technology slated to run on hardware from Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc., Lenovo Group Ltd., Gateway Inc. and others.

Intel has seen strong sales for its original Centrino platform, and a market success with the improved version could help it continue its comeback against chip-making rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Already, Intel said it has tallied 230 platforms from various PC vendors that will be designed around the new Centrino.

The new version adds longer battery life and faster computing to the technology bundle of a processor, chip set and wireless card. Intel will keep the name Centrino Duo for the consumer version, although changes include a faster Core 2 Duo processor, support for the draft version of 802.11n wireless networking and a Turbo Memory feature that supplements the standard hard drive with NAND flash for faster booting.

"Probably the thing most people will notice is the graphics controller, for better video capability," said Mike Trainor, Intel's chief mobile technology evangelist. That will earn the new platform high marks from video gamers and DVD watchers, since improved color control will make the monitor show images nearly as vivid as a TV set, he said.

In an appeal to corporate buyers, Intel also launched a business version of Santa Rosa called Centrino Pro, which borrows many of the automated security and IT management features from Intel's vPro business desktop platform. That will allow corporate systems administrators to repair and protect employees' notebooks remotely, inspecting faulty PCs or adding software patches over wireless links.

Adding remote corporate management technology to laptops will meet a strong customer demand, PC vendors say.

"One of the key things we've been hearing is the need to simplify the overall IT environment," said Brett McAnally, senior marketing manager for Dell's Latitude business laptop line. "Rising complexity has introduced challenges where customers have trouble focusing on their core business tasks."

Dell will use Centrino Duo in the new D630 thin-and-light laptop and the D830 high-performance model introduced today. They replace the previous D620 and D820 models. The new platform extends battery life on those products by 15% compared with the standard Centrino, reaching up to 9.4 hours, Dell said.

Dell also plans to use the Centrino platform in its Latitude D430 ultramobile laptop and Precision M4300 workstation "in the coming weeks," and will add Centrino Pro to its lineup by the fourth quarter when it launches the D630c model business laptop.

Dell charges $1,189 for the D630, which has a 14.1-in. screen and weighs 4.48 lb. The company charges $1,249 for the D830, which features a 15.4-in. display and weighs 5.97 lb. For the high-value market, Dell also unveiled its second Latitude notebook to use an AMD chip, the entry-level D531, which sells for $839 with the Turion 64 or Sempron processor.

The power efficiency of the new Centrino platform also answers customer demand for cooler, quieter PCs, said Tom Ribble, director of ThinkPad product marketing at Lenovo.

Lenovo unveiled the ThinkPad T61 with Centrino Pro and ThinkPad R61 with Centrino Duo, both with 14-in. widescreen displays and reduced surface temperature and fan noise. Beginning in mid-May, Lenovo will sell the T61 for $1,399 and the R61 for $1,249. The company will also launch a value-priced version for small business users in late May, selling the Lenovo 3000 N200 with Centrino Duo for $1,099.

HP also announced plans to sell Centrino-based notebooks, supporting Centrino Pro on its HP Compaq 2710p, 2510p and 6910p business laptops. HP charges $1,349 for the 6910p, and by the fourth quarter will launch the 2710p for $1,699 and the 2510p for $1,599. 

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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