Is Faster Notebook Performance Worth Shorter Battery Life?
Just about a year after Intel introduced the second generation Centrino Mobile Technology with Sonoma, its next generation "Napa" implementation is now ready for the light of day. Sonoma was designed to make desktop PC features - such as PCI Express, Serial ATA, and dual channel DDR2 memory - available for use in notebooks.
In contrast, Napa represents a move to a completely new hardware base. This paves the way for a completely new era in mobile computing: From now on, notebooks can double their "brain power", by using CPUs with two independent processing units, a technology commonly known as Dual Core processors. A primary advantage of CPUs with two cores comes from their ability to handle two or even more multiple tasks simultaneously. This means that while one processing unit might be busy with conducting a virus scan, for example, the second unit will still be available to handle other tasks. As a result, long delays - which can amount to seconds when switching from one application to another when multiple concurrent programs are working - are supposed to become a thing of the past.
According to vendor reports, the battery life for the new dual core platforms in notebooks using Intel's integrated graphics core isn't supposed to decline at all, when compared with the previous generation (Sonoma). Our first measurements on a prototype device with a dedicated graphics chip (ATI X1600) paint a completely different picture, however, and this detracts from the positive impression that the new technology's improved performance creates. We can only guess whether the relatively modest battery lifetimes we observed in our test system are due to the graphics subsystem, the chipset itself, or a combination of these elements. That said, as we'll prove later in this article, this new CPU is definitely no energy hog.
Like the old platform, this new one is designated using the Intel Centrino Mobile Technology brand name, as long as the device includes a single core CPU along with a new Intel chipset and an Intel WLAN module. If system builders use a WLAN module from a supplier other than Intel, the device may not use the Centrino name and Intel's marketing incentives and promotions diminish considerably. Notebooks that use a dual core processor (along with a corresponding new Intel chipset and WLAN module) are instead designated as Intel Centrino Duo Mobile Technology.
Say goodbye to the old familiar processor designation "Pentium M" and the various related model designations such as the "Pentium M xxx". The latest Intel naming scheme uses a five-element alphanumeric code that takes the form "Axxxx". In addition, product names now are the Intel Core Duo Processor and Intel Core Solo Processor; you'll read more about these later in this story.