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Intel reveals Transmeta ‘killer’

So it hopes...

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Intel will unveil Transmeta-targeting mobile Pentium III and Celeron parts today. The new chips' clock speeds are lower than Intel's existing mobile processors, but are expected to offer significant power savings.

We say "expected" because that claim comes from Chipzilla itself, spinning it up in a pre-launch official leak to CNet. Both parts are clocked at 500MHz. The PIII version consumes about 0.5W, less than half the current 600MHz Mobile PIII. That makes it perform "two to three times as fast as the Transmeta", boasted Frank Spindler, general manager of Intel's mobile products group. "[It's] the lowest-power-consuming PC processor that has ever been built."

The Register first came across the chips - well, the PIII version, anyway - when we heard about an IBM do at Comdex last November. Big Blue was showing off its ThinkPad 240, originally demo'd with a Transmeta Crusoe but at now sporting one of the new 500MHz Mobile PIIIs.

The reason? Well, IBM apparently wanted a seven-hour battery life and the Crusoe could only manage six. Well clearly it had to go. Of course, we heard allegations aplenty that Intel had leaned on IBM, but we didn't take this too seriously, Intel being such a nice company and all.

Speaking to CNet, Spindler - aptly named or what? - trotted out the IBM's decision to use the new PIII in the ThinkPad 240 as an example of the part's superiority because it allows the 240 to "run about five hours", according to the article.

Excuse us, but isn't that worse than the originally insufficient six hours that Transmeta was able to provide?

CNet didn't pick up on that, so we don't know what Spindler's answer would be, but we suspect it would largely centre on the irrelevance of this sub-notebook market. According to Frank, the main focus of the notebook market will be the slimline sector where being skinny, light and fast is more important than battery life. So there.

Intel's new chips appear to be fabbed at .18 micron, with .13 coming later in the year along with copper interconnects. The PIII uses SpeedStep to lower the clock speed when running on batteries. So while it runs at 500MHz when connected to the mains it only runs at 300MHz when on batteries, which is rather less than Transmeta's chips do. Both chips also utilise QuickStart to cut power consumption between keystrokes.

The 500MHz Mobile Pentium III costs $208, in groups of 1000. The Celeron costs $118. ®

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