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Intel reveals next-gen ultrathin chips

'Thin is in'

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Computex Declaring that in the notebook market "thin is in," Intel today announced a new ultra-low-voltage (ULV) processor, three new Core 2 Duo mobile processors, and a new low-power mobile chipset - and attempted a wee bit of benchmarking bait-and-switch regarding battery life.

The announcements were made in conjunction with Intel's participation in Computex Taipei, the Taiwanese mega-conference opening tomorrow that's second in size only to the ludicrously huge CeBIT of Hanover, Germany.

Few technical and no pricing specifics were provided in the webcast announcement, which was hosted by Uday Marty, Intel's director of product marketing in the company's Mobile Platforms Group. He did reveal, however, that the three new standard-voltage processors are the Core 2 Duo T9900, P9700, and P8800 and that the new ULV processor will carry on the time-tested Pentium name and be given the part number of SU2700

The new GS40 Express mobile chipset is a lower-power variant of the exisiting GS45 Express graphics and memory controller hub. The new chipset has an as-yet-unspecified lower TDP than the GS45's 12W and supports a frontside bus (FSB) of up to 800MHz and a graphics clock of 400MHz, as opposed to the GS45's 1066MHz FSB and 533MHz graphics clock.

The new processors - especially the Pentium SU2700 - will enable Intel's customers to create laptop entrants into what Marty called the current "'thin is in' phase" of personal electronic devices such as televisions, media players and smartphones. "'Thin is in' has finally caught up to computers," he said, adding that "very thin, very light systems are now going to be available worldwide for consumers [at] price points for you and me and people we know."

In other words, at prices below those of the $1,799 MacBook Air and $1,999 Dell Adamo. In contrast to those pricey offerings, Marty described ultrathins that will provide the "full PC experience" at prices ranging from $499 to $1,200.

Key to to enabling this industry-wide move to what Marty called "cool, sexy new form factors" will be increased battery life. To illustrate this trend, he claimed that testing has shown a notebook equipped with an existing 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo SU9400 and running Bapco's MobileMark 2007 benchmark on Vista Home Premium Edition to achieve the Holy Grail of battery-life performance: over eight hours of continuous use - 485 minutes, to be precise.

Unfortunately, the real "thin is in" battery-life story is less impressive. The notebook cited in Marty's test had a 56 Watt-hour (Wh) battery that's significantly more potent - and heavier - than those in the aforementioned MacBook Pro and Dell Adamo, which have 37Wh and 40Wh batteries, respectively, and which have claimed battery lives of 4.5 and 5 hours. The top-rung Adamo, by the way, has a processor and FSB speed equivalent to Intel's benchmarked 'book (the MacBook is faster).

Despite this exaggeration, however, Marty's central premise is solid. Lower-powered chips and chipsets will indeed power an upcoming generation of ultrathins. Intel, in fact, has over 40 OEM "design wins" with such major laptoppers as Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Toshiba.

Thin may very well be in, but it may take another platform generation before the "full PC experience" can be fully experienced for a full eight-hour day with a three-pound laptop. ®

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