Smaller, faster, cooler, more efficient: The 2007 mobile CPU road map

AMD is pitting an innovative new CPU design against Intel's new Centrino platform and 45nm fabrication process. The mobile chip wars are hotter than ever.

Ask anyone to name their No. 1 laptop grievance, and you'll repeatedly hear two words: "battery power." In an era when seemingly everyone is switching from desktops to laptops, the inability to compute for more than four or five straight hours without being plugged in feels outdated.

Thankfully, it appears that market leaders Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. understand this shortcoming and are moving to address it. Both last year and this year, the all-important notion of performance-per-watt has dominated the spotlight. Greater performance-per-watt results in cooler inside temperatures and increased power efficiencies. For laptops, both of these elements are critical, and addressing them usually translates into longer battery life.

Typically, laptop processor speeds have increased at the cost of battery life. However, with last year's release of its mobile Core 2 Duo processors, Intel made great strides in increasing performance while decreasing power consumption. But can the chip giant keep it up?

Considering how important the mobile computing category is to overall profits, it's clear that AMD will have to deliver some substantially better products to make a dent in Intel's dominance. Can AMD deliver?

Keep reading for details -- including a surprising and novel approach to CPU design by AMD.

Editor's Note: Looking for information on desktop, rather than mobile, CPUs? See "Beyond Dual Core: 2007 Desktop CPU Road Map."

Intel pushes its lead

AMD may be top dog when it comes to desktop CPU market share, but Intel wields a sizable market-share advantage in mobile processors. That's largely because of the widespread popularity of Intel's Centrino mobile/Wi-Fi platform. (The platform, called Centrino Duo in its current form, consists of a specific range of mobile processors, a motherboard chip set and a wireless network interface. To be able to call a laptop a Centrino laptop, vendors must use all three components.)

The smashing success of the Core 2 Duo processor and its recent partnership with Apple have only increased Intel's mobile market-share lead over AMD. In order to preserve and extend this advantage, Intel is betting heavily on two technology advances: a new Centrino platform code-named "Santa Rosa" and the debut of a new processor architecture code-named "Penryn."

The chip-making giant will also release a number of new CPUs based on the current Centrino Duo platform as well as the new mobile platform slated for release in the second quarter of 2007.

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