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CPUs on laptops

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July 20, 2003 5:02:16 PM

I consider myself quite up to date about whetever is related to desktop computers. On the other hand I am a complete noob when it comes to laptops. I'm not buying or anything (at least not any time soon) but I would like to learn a few things about CPUs used on laptops nowadays. What CPUs are out there? Pentium 4, Pentium 4-M, Athlon XP-M, Centrino? And the most importan thing .. what are their differences?

I've seen a few ads on new laptops here where I live, carrying a Centrino CPU at 1.3GHz. I assume that this is not the same as a Pentium @ 1.3GHz? What would be the best option when buying a new laptop today?

Can anyone help me here?

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July 20, 2003 5:50:50 PM

OK, here are the typical laptop cpus you can choose from:

<b>Athlon XP-M</b>: A lower-voltage AXP. Should perform on par with similarly-clocked AXP; also consider chipset. I don't know which ones are available for laptops, though...
<b>Pentium 4-M</b>: A lower-voltage Pentium 4. Should perform on par with a similarly-clocked P4. I think the chipset is usually a DDR-based i845, single-channel, with respectable performance, although not the best.
<b>Pentium 4-M Celeron</b>: A lower-voltage Pentium 4, with less cache. Avoid this one, it's got a low performance. Goes with the same chipset than Pentium 4-M.
<b>Pentium M</b>: This is the specifically-designed laptop CPU of the whole bunch. It has got low clock, excellent IPC and an outstanding amount of cache (1MB). The only core that is available as of now under this name is Banias. When coupled with the i855 chipset and wireless networking, this is called the <i>Centrino</i> platform. Centrinos usually require considerably less power and have longer battery lives, have rather interesting features and have performance that is on par with a 50% higher clocked Pentium 4, i.e. a 1.6Ghz Centrino performs similar to a 2.4Ghz Pentium 4. Highly recommended...

<i>Future watch: Centrino/Banias is currently expensive. If you want to know what the best option would be, I'd have to say waiting is it. Intel will introduce Dothan (a new CPU core) still in 2003. Dothan will have 2MB cache and will clock at 1.8Ghz, 1.9Ghz and 2.0Ghz. The 2.0Ghz will probably be an expensive powerhouse. When this is on the market, the earlier Banias-cored Centrinos will become cheaper!</i>

<font color=red><b>M</b></font color=red>ephistopheles
July 20, 2003 6:47:38 PM

Thanks for the EXCELLENT reply. This is exactly the kind of info I was looking for, and everything tidy in one single post :)  Nice job :p 

Do you know if I can find anywhere reviews about these CPUs? Or for example when regarding Centrino, I have to stick to the fact that "is on par with a 50% higher clocked Pentium 4"? Also, do other companies beside Intel create chipsets for the Pentium M processors? Finally, I saw recently a review regarding ATI Radeon 9600 Pro (mobile). Do you know if the major companies in this business (like Sony, Compaq, IBM .. etc) plan to use this on their new laptops any time soon?
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July 20, 2003 7:34:34 PM

Quote:
This is the specifically-designed laptop CPU of the whole bunch

It is my understanding that this chip is just a suped up pentium III. Although it has very good performance.

There is no smell better than fried silicon :evil: 
July 20, 2003 11:59:45 PM

Quote:
It is my understanding that this chip is just a suped up pentium III. Although it has very good performance.

I stand by what I said before.

Banias is not just a suped up pentium III. It has better IPC and has several features of the P4, like 400Mhz QDR FSB and SSE2. It <b>was designed as a laptop CPU</b> right from the start - you will <i>not</i> find a desktop equipped with Banias. It has several power-saving features that are mostly useful for laptops.

The whole design behind Banias indicates that. It has extremely low clocks, but rather high IPC. The thinking behind this is that each clock tick consumes power - and it's good thinking. Typical Centrino platforms can last for about 45±15 minutes longer than other laptops, depending on configuration, with similar batteries.

If you want to read up on what exactly Banias is and its history, check out <A HREF="http://www.anandtech.com/mobile/showdoc.html?i=1800" target="_new">Anandtech's article on Banias</A>. It's a great introduction to Centrino.

<font color=red><b>M</b></font color=red>ephistopheles
July 21, 2003 12:08:55 AM

good enough explination for me...

There is no smell better than fried silicon :evil: 
July 21, 2003 12:16:25 AM

Now pitsi, there are lots of places you can go for laptop reviews. <A HREF="http://www.tomshardware.com/mobile/index.html" target="_new">THG's Mobile Devices</A> section can help you a bit with that, as well as <A HREF="http://www.anandtech.com/mobile/index.html" target="_new">Anandtech's mobile</A> section and <A HREF="http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/mobile/" target="_new">Xbitlabs' mobile</A> section. You can look for reviews from individual models. However, it is nearly impossible to find a generic review of each platform, because laptops come as fully-configured packages, and review sites can't quite compare each setup because they might be highly different configurations - different video cards, for instance. BTW, video cards for laptops are specific, too. THG did a <A HREF="http://www.tomshardware.com/mobile/20030324/index.html" target="_new">review</A> on the latest DX9-compliant laptop video cards that might come in handy. They mention the R9600 Pro Mobile, for which you showed interest. Unfortunately, I do not know any company that is currently shipping laptops with that chip... but I have not been following the laptop market that closely. Dell doesn't have it, I checked right now... Not even <A HREF="http://www.alienware.com" target="_new">Alienware</A> got the Mobility 9600 Pro. But you'll find the Mobility Radeon 9000 easily... If you really want the 9600, it might be a good idea to ask a local representative of one of the major companies or something.

Anyway, because of this lack of a generic platform review, you might have to look around for specific cases until you get the general feeling of what you get with each option. That statement of mine, <i>"is on par with a 50% higher clocked Pentium 4"</i>, is a result of looking through those reviews, and holds relatively well. But it should be interpreted a bit loosely.

And as for other companies creating chipsets for the Pentium M, I am not aware of any. I think it's just Intel, but I'm not completely sure of it. Anyway, anything called "centrino" already includes i855 - an Intel chipset.

<font color=red><b>M</b></font color=red>ephistopheles
a b à CPUs
July 21, 2003 6:26:56 AM

It's a mutt I think, a PIII with a few P4 features added.

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July 21, 2003 6:37:32 AM

thats what i had heard too...

There is no smell better than fried silicon :evil: 
July 21, 2003 12:25:23 PM

Yes, that is the case. However, it is still a laptop CPU right from the start...

<font color=red><b>M</b></font color=red>ephistopheles
a b à CPUs
July 21, 2003 11:07:12 PM

In that case it would make an ideal CPU for a set top box that has "X-Box", "TiVO", etc features built in.

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!