Intel Centrino chip upgrade covers many flavours of WiFi

Intel Corp. recently released the upgrade to its Centrino chip, which includes support for more wireless protocols, improved graphics and better sound, and is now on par with performance of its best desktop PC chip, the Pentium 915, the company said.

Centrino consists of Intel’s Pentium M microprocessor, the Mobile 915 Express chipset family and a wireless radio. The chipset also supports PCI Express graphics, has a 533MHz front-side bus and supports DDR2 memory.

Additionally, users have the option of a wireless radio.

It supports three 802.11 standards — 802.11a, b and g — said Doug Cooper, country manager, Intel of Canada Ltd. in Rexdale, Ont.

“The good thing with a/b/g is that you get all flavours [of Wi-Fi],” said Eddie Chan, research analyst, mobile and personal computing at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto.

Users will get performance improvements between five per cent to 10 per cent without losing battery life, Cooper said.

But most of the enhancements to Centrino weren’t business-driven, Chan said.

“The way they are positioning this product has a consumer bent to it,” he said, adding that Centrino has really taken off in the consumer market, so a lot of these upgrades such as support for Dolby Digital Sound and 7.1 surround sound and the PCI Express graphics interface, letting users get better bandwidth for graphics, are designed for users to watch DVDs on notebooks.

In 2003 in Canada, 24 per cent of PC clients sold were notebooks and this is expected to increase to 27 per cent in 2004, Chan said.

For the business user, Centrino still offers support for Cisco Systems Inc.’s Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX3) for Cisco’s wireless routers.

“Many corporations have deployed Cisco access points within the enterprise so they want their notebooks to be compatible with the security protocols the access points use,” Cooper explained.

Intel is also still offering the Stable Image Platform Program (SIPP) with this new Centrino. This means Intel will not be modifying the chipset for one year, giving organizations until Jan. 19, 2006 to install their new Centrino notebooks on the network before they need to install a new driver, Cooper said. If Intel was to make modifications, however slight, to Centrino throughout the year, IT departments would have to install different drivers for each Centrino notebook unless they were all purchased and installed at the same time, he explained.

“Large and medium businesses seldom buy their hardware at the same time,” he explained.

The next step for Intel is to launch dual-core processors, Cooper said. This upcoming dual-core processor is currently codenamed Yonah and will be on the market before the end of 2005, Cooper said. A dual-core chip essentially has two microprocessors working in tandem, like a human having two brains.

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