Acer hints at faster Intel CULV chips in Q1

Acer is planning new laptops with faster CULV chips in Q1

Acer executives have grumbled about the performance of Intel's processors for thin and light laptops but suggested that faster chips are coming early next year.

The performance of Intel's current CULV (consumer ultra-low voltage) processors, designed for thin laptops like Acer's Timeline 1810T, has not lived up to Acer's expectations, President and CEO Gianfranco Lanci said during the company's earnings call Friday.

Customers like the eight hours of battery life that the low-power chips can enable, but they are not getting the level of performance they expect, Acer Chairman J.T. Wang said on the same call.

The executives said Acer will announce new thin and light laptops in the first quarter next year that address the performance issues, using new Intel chips that mark a significant step forward in processor technology. "This time we should be able to do it right," Wang said.

Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research, said the executives may have been referring to Intel chips based on the upcoming Westmere architecture. Westmere chips will integrate a graphics processor and CPU into a single package, which should boost graphics performance while keeping power consumption low.

The Acer executives may be happy with what they are seeing from the upcoming chips, McCarron said.

An Intel spokeswoman declined to comment on any new CULV chips that may be coming up. She said the Acer executives may have been expressing concerns about single-core CULV processors, and talking about plans to offer Intel's dual-core CULV processors next year.

However, Wang's remarks suggested that he was talking about a new processor architecture altogether.

Intel offers the CULV chips under the Pentium and Celeron brands for laptops that aim to compete with Apple's ultrathin Macbook Air, though at a lower price. The CULV systems are larger than netbooks and deliver better performance, but are generally not as powerful as standard laptops.

The challenge for vendors is educating customers about what to expect from a CULV laptop, McCarron said. The affordably priced chips run at slower clock speeds than more expensive processors with more cache memory that are designed for ultraportable business laptops.

Intel has said Westmere desktop and laptop chips -- though not specifically CULV chips -- will go into production in the fourth quarter using a 32-nanometer manufacturing process, and make it into computers in the first quarter of next year.

It has also said that the clock speeds of Westmere chips should be similar to those of existing laptop processors but offer better performance by running applications through more threads.

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