Intel Centrino 2 platform review
Intel has formally launched the latest update to its Centrino notebook platform. This is the fifth update to the platform since its introduction in 2003, but for the first time it comes with a name change: the new platform (internally codenamed ‘Montevina’) is to be branded ‘Centrino 2’.
Despite the new version number, the platform hasn’t fundamentally changed. Intel has simply upped the specification to use newer versions of the components that make up Centrino – the CPU, chipset and wireless networking controller.
New mobile Core 2 processors
The most interesting development is on the CPU front. Intel made the switch to mobile versions of its 45nm ‘Penryn’ parts in the last update to Centrino – the ‘Santa Rosa refresh’ in January. Now, Centrino 2 introduces six entirely new mobile processors, all with 1,066MHz FSBs – up from the previous generation’s 800MHz.
The bottom-end processor is the Core 2 Duo P8400, which has a core clock speed of 2.26GHz. It features 3MB of cache and a TDP of 25W – down from the 35W of previous mobile Penryns.
Next up is the P8600, which is architecturally identical to the P8400 but raises the clock to 2.4GHz. The P9500 runs faster still, at 2.53GHz, and also doubles the L2 cache to 6MB.
Then come two heavier chips – the T9400 and T9600. The run at 2.53GHz and 2.8GHz respectively, and share the 6MB cache of the P9500. TDP for these models is unchanged from the previous generation, however, at 35W.
Finally, at the top of the tree sits Intel’s first mobile Core 2 Extreme processor: the multiplier-unlocked X9100, with a stock speed of 3.06GHz and a concomitantly higher thermal design power of 44W.
Intel has also promised a further eight processors for Centrino 2 within the next three months, for a total of 14 new mobile CPUs. The new models are promised to include the industry’s first quad-core mobile chip, as well as more models designed for low power computing.
Naturally, the new processors all support the Deep Power Down feature introduced with the first mobile Penryn chips. This introduces a new C6 low-power state, in which the processor is turned almost entirely off when idle.
Wi-Fi Link 5000 series
While AMD’s Puma platform permits manufacturers to pick their own wireless chipset, Intel has always insisted on a specific Intel part: all ‘Santa Rosa’ Centrinos used the draft-n Intel WiFi link 4965AGN controller.
Centrino 2 brings in certified 802.11n and introduces a little more choice. Manufacturers can now choose the Intel WiFi Link 5100, 5300, 5150 or 5350 (pictured).
We expect most domestic laptops to use the 5100 – an 802.11n chipset with 300Mb/s of receive bandwidth. The 5300 is the same, but bandwidth is increased to 450Mb/s, making it more suitable for business use where LAN transfers can be time critical. The -50 variants are the same, but include WiMAX support, enabling high speed wireless networking with a range of several miles.
Like previous Centrino specifications, Centrino 2 can accommodate discrete graphics. But the default Intel IGP has been upgraded from the GMA X3100 to the new GMA X4500, which includes hardware-accelerated decoding of all three major HD codecs (MPEG2, AVC and VC-1). Intel claims that this, coupled with lower overall power consumption, will allow users to watch a Blu-ray disc on a full battery charge – though evidently the manufacturer’s choice of components will play a part here too.