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What is the laptop Centrino chip everyone is talking about?

Posted By : of Data Doctors on February 5, 2004

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What is the difference between laptop computers with the Centrino chip and those that don't have it?


This question was answered on February 5, 2004. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Actually when you see the Centrino logo, it isn’t referring to a specific chip, but rather a combination of technologies.

Any notebook that is labeled with the ‘Centrino’ (Intel’s trademark) Mobile Technology has a combination of three technologies; the Pentium M processor, the 855 Chipset and the PRO/Wireless Network Connection.

Intel has chosen to emphasize the Centrino’s built-in wireless technology in most of its marketing efforts, but I think the best reason to consider a Centrino based system is the processor The built-in wireless networking is handy, but is having to slide a PC card into the side of the notebook that big of a deal?

Unfortunately, the confusion begins with the processor since systems without the Centrino logo use a chip referred to as the “Mobile Pentium 4” and the processor used in Centrino systems is referred to as the “Pentium M”

To make things more confusing, notebook computers that have the older Mobile Pentium 4 processor tend to have higher rated speeds (as high as 3.2 GHz) while Centrino systems top out at 1.7 GHz (as of this writing)

At face value, this would mean that the non-Centrino systems are faster, but shopping for a portable computer based on the processor speed (GHz) alone is like shopping for a car based on how high the tachometer (RPM) goes.

In many non-Centrino notebooks, the actual processor speed is reduced as the battery drains, meaning you won’t always get the rated speed.

When it comes to mobile computing, two of the most common complaints that I have heard from users is the dismal battery life and the extreme heat that can build up (especially noticeable when you are using it on your lap!).

Centrino based systems address both of these most irritating issues.

The real key to the Centrino technology is that it is much better at managing power consumption (less power consumption means less heat) by adjusting its draw from the battery depending upon what the computer is doing It also has fewer ‘paths’ to travel when processing instructions, so it is more efficient (read: faster) as a result.

Pentium M (Centrino) systems also double the size of the L2 (Level 2) cache which is a big performance enhancer because it reduces the number of times the processor must ask the slower RAM or the really slow hard drive for information.

Since battery life is extended on Centrino based notebooks, it reduces the need to buy a second battery, which helps justify the higher price of the system.

The thinner form factor of the Pentium M chip also allows computer manufacturers to design thinner, lighter notebooks which anyone that has ever had to lug them around will tell you is very important.

Unlike the redesigned desktop chips used in many notebook computers, the Centrino platform was designed from the ground up specifically to address the needs of mobile and wireless computing

If you’re a road warrior or a student that relies on mobile computing, it would serve you well to consider this groundbreaking technology when you buy your next notebook computer Your lap and your back will thank you!

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Posted by of Data Doctors on February 5, 2004

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