Intel Centrino and Mobile Computing

Aron Schatz
March 19, 2003
With the launch of the new Centrino mobile chip, mobile computing can finally make strides away from the desktop counterparts. I have some brief thoughts on the new CPU, plus mobile computing in general.
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This month is a very interesting month for mobile computing. With Intel, ATI, and nVidia pushing the limits of mobile computing, your needs for a fast mobile desktop replacement can be fulfilled. The term mobile is a nice catchy term, though. I, myself, am stuck lugging around an 8 lbs laptop and it isn't even that great when I received it (Thanks Stevens!). Mobile is something that is easily carried and not to throw your back out. A laptop needs good battery life, I'm sick of seeing laptops that last less than two hours. What is the point of mobile computing if you can't stay mobile?

<B>Mobile CPUs</B>:

I believe that the Intel Centrino will start to change the way we view laptops, and mobile computing in general. Intel has laid quite a bit of cash on an advertising campaign that would rival some politicians in an election year. The Centrino CPU (formally code named Banias) is the first ever 'built for mobile' CPU. This changes what the past has done. In the past, a mobile CPU was just a scaled down desktop chip in a low voltage and/or a smaller package. While this may be good for some, I felt that the chip companies are just tossing all their R&D into the desktop. Don't even get me started on desktop chips in laptops, that is a bad idea.

<B>Mobile Problems</B>:

Two things really hamper mobile computing: heat and space. If you ever felt the fan out of a laptop that runs a desktop or even a current generation mobile chip, that air can nearly burn you. Hell, someone even got burned by using his laptop in bed. Which leads to the second problem. The space inside the laptop is cramped, that's why you need efficient heat transfer and small components.

<B>Thinner, lighter and longer lasting</B>:

Integration is key for mobile computing. The Centrino offers WiFi support on chip, but more importantly, runs much cooler than the mobile Pentium 4. The Centrino is also a better processor given the fact that the IPC of the chip has been greatly increased. I can see a phase out of Pentium 4-M in the near future, although the Centrino has a premium price right now. Premium price, with premium features. You get a greatly extended battery life which is the biggest plus I can think of. And, because the chip is design specifically for mobile use, the possibilities of thinner and lighter notebooks are greatly increased, and are usable. Current thin or light notebooks have poor battery life and are generally slow.

<B>Where to we go from here?</B>:

The Centrino is just the first step in the right direction. ATI and nVidia have both launched their new mobile graphics chips, that are power saving as well as fast. The biggest drain of energy for mobile computing is the display. We've heard of OLED displays for awhile, but I haven't seen any progress. OLED promises to deliver greatly enhanced battery life and more, due to it not needed to be back lit. Also, TFTs can use the new transreflective screens that I have seen on the new Axims and the Ipaqs, you can see those well in the dark and the don't need a back light either (The new Gameboy Advance SP is a perfect example as well).

Well, there you go. My thoughts on the Centrino and mobile computing in general. <a href="/forums/">Comments are welcome</a>.


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