Centrino 2 Exposed: A Name Deserved?

Living in a MacBook Air World

Intel isn’t used to playing second-fiddle on the mobility circuit. Back in 2003, Centrino was the bee’s knees of notebook computing, combining the Pentium M processor (Banias), Intel’s 855-series chipset (sporting DDR-266 memory) and the PRO/Wireless 2100B wireless card (limited to 802.11b speeds of 11 Mb/s). But while the hardware inside its platforms has evolved steadily, an Intel whitebook laptop is still, for the most part, the same as it ever was. Battery-life, weight and screen size — it’s more of the same, and road warriors just don’t seem to be as fixated on the Centrino message.

Of course, Centrino doesn’t look any sexier next to Apple’s MacBook Air, which incorporates a 1.6 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, an 80 GB hard drive, wireless draft-n support and Intel’s GMA X3100 integrated graphics core. Those specifications aren’t even very impressive compared to the existing “Santa Rosa” Centrino platform. But because Apple is able to finesse that hardware into a package less than an inch thick, its MacBook Air is more of an attention-getter.

Apple’s success is hardly bad news to Intel, which supplies much of the notebook’s internals. However, with a price tag starting at $1,800, the ultra-portable Air is hardly what we’d call a back-to-school special. The door is wide open for Intel’s partners to both outperform the Mac and add a lot more value.

Don’t forget about AMD, either. The newly-christened platform proponent launched its latest mobile initiative called “Puma” at this year’s Computex in Taipei, Taiwan. Comprised of a mobile processor design dubbed “Griffin,” the RS780M chipset, the same integrated graphics core found in AMD’s 780G desktop core logic and wireless networking controllers from any of a handful of IHV partners, Puma’s imitation of Centrino should be sincerely flattering for Intel.

Although AMD faces an uphill battle trying to usurp such an established mobile brand, Puma has strengths where Intel continues to demonstrate weakness. For instance, the RS780M chipset with its Radeon HD 3200-class graphics should be a vastly superior performer versus Intel’s GMA X3100, which incidentally only recently started supporting DirectX 10 software through a driver update. Moreover, the ability to switch between discrete graphics and integrated graphics could prove to be a major boon in optimizing battery life.

Not So Fast

Intel isn’t going to let Puma steal its thunder, though. Nor will a lack of innovation allow Intel’s own branded platform to be eclipsed by the MacBook Air. Rather, the company is putting finishing touches on the first true sequel to its Centrino initiative (never mind the fact that this is a fifth-generation revision) aptly named Centrino 2.

intel centrino 2

Given the subtle changes made to each iteration of Centrino up until now, we hope that Centrino 2 is more Star Wars Episode V and less Jurassic Park: The Lost World (what a horrible sequel that was).

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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.
  • 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.
  • snarfies1
    Lot of exposing going on today, lol...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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...
  • celticbattlepants
    "...Apple is able to finesse that hardware into a package less than an inch thick..."

    isnt finesse a noun?
  • 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 ;-)
  • 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. :)
  • 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!
  • orangesodazz
    Thanks for the info cangelini, I guess I need to choose between the JHL90 and the older FL92 now. Decisions, decisions.
  • 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.
  • kalpesh
    GMail Is Still Beta
  • 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!
  • 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.