Intel improves dual-core chip to protect its notebook share

Intel launched a dual-core chip for high-end notebook users hoping to reach gamers and digital artists

Intel has launched a dual-core notebook chip for high-end users, continuing an effort to defend its share of the fast-growing notebook PC market against Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

Intel is selling the new Core 2 Extreme X7800 processor to PC vendors now, and claims it will reach store shelves within two weeks, boosting performance for the hard-core gamers and digital artists who now use notebooks powered by Intel's Core Duo T2600.

The company encouraged vendors to push even faster performance by opening the chip's speed protection locks, allowing them to overclock the processor for even faster operation. Some video game fans seek top performance by running chips beyond their rated speed limits on desktop PCs like Dell's XPS 720 series. The practice is less common on notebook PCs, which are usually optimized for the best battery endurance.

By concentrating on notebooks, Intel is aiming at the sweet spot of the PC market. Vendors have seen sparse growth in desktop PC shipments in recent years, increasing by only single-digit per centages in 2005, 2006 and forecasts for 2007. But demand for notebooks in soaring, with global notebook shipments showing increases of 35.9 per cent in 2005, 28.4 per cent in 2006 and an estimated 25.3 per cent in 2007, according to the analyst firm, iSuppli.

In May, Intel made another effort to push sales of its mobile chips by launching its Santa Rosa bundle of mobile processors and chipsets, an upgrade to its popular Centrino platform. AMD quickly responded by announcing later that month that it would use a new mobile processor called Griffin as the basis of a collection of processors and chipsets code-named Puma, expected to reach markets in the middle of 2008.

Intel now hopes to regain the initiative by expanding its Core 2 Extreme brand from high-end desktops to high-end notebooks. It is selling the 2.6GHz Core 2 Extreme X7800 notebook chip for $US851.

Intel has also announced five new desktop chips, led by the quad-core, 3.0GHz Core 2 Extreme QX6850, intended for game developers, and the 2.66GHz Core 2 Quad Q6700. Intel is selling those two chips for $US999 and $US530, respectively, priced in 1000-unit quantities.

Intel's new dual-core chips are all in the Core 2 Duo family, including the 3.0GHz E6850, for $US266, the 2.66GHz E6750, for $US183, and the 2.33GHz E6550, for $US163. The company is shipping all the chips now, and expects vendors to bring them to markets in two weeks.

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