Centrino 2 Exposed: A Name Deserved?

New Networking Options

Turning the Knob on Bandwidth

The current wireless card going into Centrino notebooks is the WiFi Link 4965AGN PCIe — by all standards, a solid representation of the latest networking technology. The benefits of 802.11n are still in draft form; the task group has approved draft 4.0 and is now working on draft 5.0, so who knows when we’ll see a concrete standard.

Nevertheless, Intel is revamping its entire lineup of wireless notebook adapters for Centrino 2 with four new models. The WiFi Link 5100 and WiFi Link 5300 should be available within the next month, while the WiMAX/WiFi Link 5150 and WiMAX/WiFi Link 5350 will go on sale later this year.

intel centrino 2

The difference between the first two and second pair is, of course, WiMAX support. When we asked Intel about the readiness of WiMAX infrastructure to give the 5x50 cards some value, its response was: “WiMAX provides much wider Internet and phone voice coverage, and unlike Wi-Fi, has the ability to unwire entire cities or communities, [ensuring connectivity] even when on the move. Intel is working with service providers around the world to deploy WiMAX networks, with initial U.S. network availability starting later this year from Sprint XOHM and Clearwire.” In other words, even if Centrino 2 were immediately available with WiMAX hardware, it’d idle until the wireless networks came online in your area.

What, then, is there left to add to the Wi-Fi-only cards that’ll make notebook vendors want to spend as much as $30 on them? Well, according to Intel, the new wireless offerings are going to zero in on three things.

First, there should be a big step up in performance. The entry-level WiFi Link 5100 is expected to receive files at up to 300 Mb/s using a 2x1 MIMO configuration. The higher-end WiFi Link 5300 gets a claimed 450 Mb/s using a 3x3 antenna setup. Incidentally, the 4965AGN should also deliver up to 300 Mb/s, putting the 5100 on par. We’re going to assume that Intel is employing the same technology that Marvell uses to get 450 Mb/s out of three sub-streams with its TopDog 11n-450. It isn’t clear whether or not you’d need a router built on a particular draft of the 802.11n specification to take advantage of the faster data rate, though.

Intel is also shooting for power savings with the new 5000-series WiFi Link cards. It cites consumption numbers at idle, associated with a network, at less than 25 mW. It also claims to offer significant reductions in power consumption and increases in power efficiency, but fails to provide the data to support those percentage increases.

intel centrino 2

Finally, the new WiFi Link cards include support for Active Management Technology 4.0, helping tie Centrino 2 into Intel’s more enterprise-oriented vision. A notebook boasting Centrino 2 with vPro technology includes the Core 2 Duo chip with Virtualization Technology, a Mobile 45 Express Chipset with the ICH9M-Enhanced controller (a $5 BOM increase), the 82567LM Gigabit chip with AMT 4.0 support, one of the new WiFi Link cards with AMT 4.0 support and a Trusted Platform Module v1.2. With all of those pieces in place, IT administrators can manage wireless clients, even if they’re powered off. We’ve seen this functionality for a while now on wired systems, but it’s brand new in the notebook space. With that said, only the enterprise folks will really care about its implementation.

Intel hasn’t yet started talking about pricing on the 5x50 cards with WiMAX support, but we can’t help but think that they’re the biggest piece of this Centrino 2 story. All of the other components really just represent incremental improvements, but WiMAX is completely new. If you’re going to spend a grand on a notebook that won’t be replaced for another couple of years, it really makes sense to wait and see how the metropolitan networking technology unfolds in the next six months.

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  • santos79
    The Montevina chipset also introduces support for 8GB of RAM. IMO that's a major advantage of the Centrino2 and should have been mentioned in the article.

    While 4GB more than enough for now, it might not be enough in 2-3 years.
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  • silversound
    Thats nothing close to a revolutionary upgrade like the core2 from pentium4, only FSB and some memory upgrade on the motherboard; PC6400 is so last year for desktop. Certainly do not deserve the name change, i think just a marketing attempt try to stimulate the sales.
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  • snarfies1
    Lot of exposing going on today, lol...
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  • cangelini
    silversoundThats nothing close to a revolutionary upgrade like the core2 from pentium4, only FSB and some memory upgrade on the motherboard; PC6400 is so last year for desktop. Certainly do not deserve the name change, i think just a marketing attempt try to stimulate the sales.


    Yeah, fairly underwhelming overall--at least until we see hardware from Intel.
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  • mrmessma
    I would like to point out that a Z06 gets better mileage (city and highway) than a GT-R, V8 vs TT V6, while both having very comparable power and lap times depending on the track style. Just putting it out there, because I know quite a few were thinking it. Haha.
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  • cangelini
    mrmessmaI would like to point out that a Z06 gets better mileage (city and highway) than a GT-R, V8 vs TT V6, while both having very comparable power and lap times depending on the track style. Just putting it out there, because I know quite a few were thinking it. Haha.


    I'd argue that it depends on how you're driving the car ;-) I have a much easier time burning through a tank in my V8 than I ever did the bi-turbo V6.
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  • mrmessma
    Ok, yes many V8 suck a lot of gas often being paired to heavier vehicles. But I would still wager a quality V8 vs a quality twin turbo V6 have very similar appetites. A very nitpicky thing to say, I will admit.
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  • cangelini
    mrmessmaOk, yes many V8 suck a lot of gas often being paired to heavier vehicles. But I would still wager a quality V8 vs a quality twin turbo V6 have very similar appetites. A very nitpicky thing to say, I will admit.


    No worries ;) More than anything I was trying to make a brute force vs. finesse analogy--probably could have picked a better subject, but I'm a car guy.
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  • JonnyDough
    "The Lost World (what a horrible sequel that was)."

    I'm sorry, is this a blog?

    If you're going to put your opinion about all sorts of silly things in articles, then please post the article as a BLOG and not some type of news story. I think we (the readers) have been over this.
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  • cangelini
    JonnyDough"The Lost World (what a horrible sequel that was)."I'm sorry, is this a blog?If you're going to put your opinion about all sorts of silly things in articles, then please post the article as a BLOG and not some type of news story. I think we (the readers) have been over this.


    Thanks for the feedback!
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  • Luscious
    Intel also promised a mobile quad-core in H2 of this year. I'm hoping that with some newer gpu offerings (read beefy) there will be some high power gaming laptops to choose from this holiday season...
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  • celticbattlepants
    "...Apple is able to finesse that hardware into a package less than an inch thick..."

    isnt finesse a noun?
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  • cangelini
    Celticbattlepants"...Apple is able to finesse that hardware into a package less than an inch thick..."isnt finesse a noun?


    It can also be used as a verb ;-)
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  • orangesodazz
    So, does this mean that the Compal JHL90 whitebook is strictly Montevina and not Centrino 2?

    Also, I was wondering if this new centrino 2 platform will support the next batch of cpus beyond the penryn mobile series or will an update be needed like Santa Rosa had.

    One last question, :). Is there any real performance difference between say a t9300 800Mhz FSB and an update t9400 1066Mhz FSB, and maybe even a P9500 1066Mhz FSB?

    I know these are pretty technical questions and would appreciate any and all responses. :)
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  • cangelini
    orangesodazzSo, does this mean that the Compal JHL90 whitebook is strictly Montevina and not Centrino 2?Also, I was wondering if this new centrino 2 platform will support the next batch of cpus beyond the penryn mobile series or will an update be needed like Santa Rosa had. One last question, . Is there any real performance difference between say a t9300 800Mhz FSB and an update t9400 1066Mhz FSB, and maybe even a P9500 1066Mhz FSB?I know these are pretty technical questions and would appreciate any and all responses.


    Orange,

    You'd need to built the Compal whitebook up using the full complement of Centrino 2 components--it's a Montevina notebook, though.

    Re: CPUs: If you're talking about the upcoming Nehalem-based processors, then no, this platform will not be able to support them.

    Hopefully we'll know soon enough about the advantages of the faster front side bus. Intel didn't have any hardware ready for the launch, so we still don't know.

    Thanks!
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  • orangesodazz
    Thanks for the info cangelini, I guess I need to choose between the JHL90 and the older FL92 now. Decisions, decisions.
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  • nurgletheunclean
    mrmessmaI would like to point out that a Z06 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corvette_Z06 gets better mileage (city and highway) than a GT-R, V8 vs TT V6, while both having very comparable power and lap times depending on the track style. Just putting it out there, because I know quite a few were thinking it. Haha.


    There are major differences between the Z06 and GTR. for one the Z06 is ~750lbs lighter. The Z06 is also 2wd unlike the GTR's 4wd. Inherently a turbo driven engine will be more fuel efficient if driven at lower throttles since the vehicle will operate as a naturally aspirated smaller engine with less reciprocating inertia, friction, etc. Trim 750lbs and use a rwd only on the GTR and the MPG would most likely tilt toward the GTR.

    For example a Caparo T1 with 550hp will run circles around a z06 (and just about everything else)and get 33MPG. Is that because it's 1000lbs lighter than the Z06, you decide.

    The analogy as to cpu(s) and chipsets is fair. Since a smaller process cpu or chipset is like a smaller v6 engine. While the increased clock rates yield greater performance, such as boost from a turbo. Turbo has been a cliche term used for computer components for decades so this statement just continues the trend.
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  • kalpesh
    GMail Is Still Beta
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  • graphicsrus
    I like Intel, but to give them a "pass" on graphics and video is a little incredible without a real review. To give them a pass on it when they are at the center of the Vista graphics class-action lawsuit, have a well known track record of low performance on compatibility and games, and there are reported issues on C2 HD video (AnandTech) amazes me.
    Intel & Vista: http://www.builderau.com.au/news/soa/Microsoft-Vista-Capable-debacle-points-to-Intel/0,339028227,339286445,00.htm
    Intel and Sims2: http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/aug2007/tc2007081_108723.htm?chan=search
    Intel and HD video: http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/intel/showdoc.aspx?i=3356&p=5

    Let's please get a system review!
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  • cangelini
    graphicsrusI like Intel, but to give them a "pass" on graphics and video is a little incredible without a real review. To give them a pass on it when they are at the center of the Vista graphics class-action lawsuit, have a well known track record of low performance on compatibility and games, and there are reported issues on C2 HD video (AnandTech) amazes me.Intel & Vista: Intel and Sims2: Intel and HD video: Let's please get a system review!


    They certainly don't get a pass. Not knowing what the integrated core is capable of, we can't pass judgment one way or another. Absolutely we'll be taking a look at some of the Centrino 2-based platforms once they become available next month.
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