Intel's Pentium M finds a place on the desktop

Intel's Pentium M processor wasn't meant to sit on a desktop. The chip, which lies at the heart of Intel's Centrino technology and the company's Unwired marketing campaign, was designed to be used in notebook computers, but a German company thinks the chip is perfect for other -- more stationary -- devices, including embedded applications and low-power PCs that don't require cooling fans.

Lippert Automationstechnik GmbH, in Mannheim, Germany, has released preliminary specifications for a Mini-ITX (170 millimeters by 170 millimeters) motherboard, called Thunderbird, which is designed for Intel's Pentium M processor and is intended to be used in high-performance embedded applications, such as gaming and entertainment. Pricing and availability of the motherboard, which could also be used in small form-factor desktop PCs, were not disclosed.

By using the low-power Pentium M instead of Intel's flagship desktop processor, the Pentium 4, Thunderbird can be used in computers that don't require a cooling fan to prevent the processor from overheating, Lippert said. The Pentium 4 generates lots of heat and PCs based on the chip require cooling fans, which can be noisy.

Fan noise has long been considered one of the major obstacles to getting PCs into the entertainment space, such as for use in the living room.

Thunderbird is designed to be used with Pentium M chips running at clock speeds up to 1.6GHz, Lippert said, adding that support for higher clock speeds is in the works. The board also offers six USB 2.0 ports, support for Gigabit Ethernet, and includes one Mini-PCI slot, which can accommodate a wireless LAN module, Lippert said.

Lippert is not the first company to introduce a desktop motherboard for the Pentium M. RadiSys, in Hillsboro, Oregon, offers a MicroATX (244 millimeters by 244 millimeters) motherboard, the LS855, which is also designed for Pentium M chips up to 1.6GHz and does not require a cooling fan.

The Pentium M is not the first Intel chip to find its way into markets other than those that Intel intended. The desktop Pentium 4 chip is often used in notebook computers, despite its relatively high power consumption and the heat that it generates.

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