Intel introduces 12 mobile chips

Undeterred by a sluggish economy and slumping PC sales, Intel Corp. is unveiling 12 new mobile processors Monday--including its fastest, which hits 1.2 GHz. Also new is an improved mobile chip set with integrated graphics that Intel says will rival some standalone products.

Dell Computer Corp. and Toshiba Corp. plan to use the new chips in upcoming notebooks. Intel says all of the major notebook makers will begin using one or more of the new chips in notebooks they ship Monday or in the coming weeks.

The new 1.2-GHz Mobile Pentium III M chip becomes Intel's fastest new mobile processor. It represents a relatively minor speed jump from its existing 1.13-GHz Pentium III M chip.

While the leap is less than 100MHz, when it's paired with the improved 830 chip set you'll see noticeably better performance over even recent 1-GHz PIII systems, says Frank Spindler, vice president and general manager of the mobile platform group at Intel.

Depending on the benchmark, users will see improvements of anywhere from 35 to 65 percent over the 1-GHz PIII using the old 440 chip set, he says.

In the chips

Besides its faster front-side bus and memory support (both are now at 133 MHz, up from 100 MHz), the 830 chip set is being offered in two more flavors with integrated graphics, Spindler says. When Intel launched its first round of PIII M chips along with the 830 chip set in July, the company suggested integrated graphics versions would soon follow.

Traditionally used in value-priced systems, integrated graphics have generally paled in comparison with standalone graphics products. The 830 changes that, Spindler says.

"It is a dramatic boost over anything that has shipped before in integrated graphics," he says.

Intel is offering three versions of the 830: one with external graphics; the 830M, which offers mainstream-quality integrated graphics; and the 830MG, which offers integrated graphics for those on a tighter budget.

Intel claims the 830MG chip set's integrated graphics offer a 68 percent improvement in 3D WinBench tests over its current mobile chip set with integrated graphics, the 815EM. The 830M offers a 118 percent improvement over the 815EM on the same test.

Intel isn't offering details on the difference between the specifications or pricing of its 830M and 830MG products.

More low-voltage chips

Intel continues its offensive against low-power processor competitor Transmeta with its launch of 733-, 750-, and 800-MHz Low Voltage chips as well as a 700-MHz Ultra Low Voltage processor.

Asked about Intel's stance on Transmeta, Spindler says Intel's chip easily outruns comparable products from the competition. "We know the existing PIII family in the ultra-low voltage category were clearly the highest performing processors in the small notebook category," he says.

While Intel ceded some early design wins to Transmeta in the low-voltage processor category, the chip giant's barrage of new low-power chips has begun to turn the tables, says Kevin Krewell, senior analyst with MicroDesign Resources. "They're really taking it to Transmeta," he says.

Intel's Ultra Low Voltage products are now starting to garner more notebook design wins, he says. For example, Compaq is planning a mini-notebook based on Intel's latest chip.

Intel has made it clear it doesn't intend to lose any more business to Transmeta, Krewell adds.

"If you poke them [Intel] hard enough they get mad and respond," he says, referring to Transmeta's early claims that its chips would use noticeably less power than Intel products while offering comparable performance.

PC World tests of early Transmeta-based products showed some power savings, but not as much as promised--and performance wasn't great.

Feeling AMD's heat

Intel's sales aren't seriously hit by other competition in the mobile segment, Spindler says.

"We haven't seen a dramatic change. We see nothing else in the competitive landscape that offers the combination of performance and lower power," he says.

MicroDesign's Krewell disagrees, however, suggesting AMD's Mobile Athlon 4 and Duron products have made a dent--especially in retail.

Just as AMD's Athlon faces a disadvantage in name and megahertz perception against Intel's P4 on the desktop, Intel's Mobile PIII M is at a disadvantage against the Athlon 4, he says. Retail buyers look at the number four and assume it is new and better than the three, he says.

His company doesn't track retail numbers, but Krewell says he thinks AMD has "gained a significant percentage of retail sales."

More Mobile Celerons

Intel is also adding to its Mobile Celeron mix Monday. The company is releasing chips at 733, 800, 866, 900, and 933 MHz. Also new is a 650-MHz Low-Voltage Celeron, the first Celeron chip to move to the 0.13-micron process Intel uses on its other mobile chips.

Asked whether Intel might discontinue its mobile Celeron line, Spindler quickly discounts the idea.

"It's been very successful for us in mobile and desktop," he says, pointing to the release of six new Celeron chips. "We're committed to Celeron long term--and to the value space long term."

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Tom Mainelli

PC World
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