Intel Shows Off Low-Power Pentium for Notebooks

Intel unveiled at Comdex this week the first prototype of a notebook computer featuring its new low-power Pentium III processor.

"(The processor) is in sampling to customers now and will launch in the first quarter of next year," said Donald MacDonald, director of mobile platform marketing at Intel.

The CPU, which Intel first disclosed earlier this year, was shown to reporters on Sunday in a technology demonstration. The chip is currently being supplied in sample quantities to customers for evaluation and was demonstrated in an IBM ThinkPad 240Z sub-notebook.

Until earlier this month, IBM had been planning to launch a ThinkPad 240 with Transmeta's low-power Crusoe processor but canceled those plans. At Comdex the company was playing its cards close to its chest. Fran O'Sullivan, general manager for mobile computing with IBM's personal systems group, said the company is still mulling the use of both the new Intel chip and Transmeta's processor in future products. Users can switch the processor speed between either 500MHz or 300MHz using Intel's SpeedStep technology with the lower speed meaning less power consumption and greater battery life.

"The average power it is consuming is 0.16 watts," said MacDonald of a live demonstration running multiple applications with peak power consumption just over 1 watt. Average power consumption of the already launched mobile Pentium III processor is under 2 watts, according to Intel figures.

The processor requires just under 1 volt of electricity when running at 300MHz and just over 1 volt at 500MHz, which helps reduce power consumption and battery life can be further extended by using an Intel technology called Deep Sleep, which reduces processor activity when the machine is not doing anything.

Benefits of the chip are most likely to be seen in smaller notebook computers, such as the sub-notebook in which it was demonstrated, because the screen is smaller and uses less power. The processor may account for up to 25 percent of total power consumption and so battery life could be extended by about 30 minutes, MacDonald said.

"For a general system, (the processor accounts for) somewhere around 10 percent of total power consumption," she said. "The biggest consumer of power is the screen -- if you want longer battery life have a smaller screen."

Most notebook computer makers are looking to both screen and battery technology in addition to low-power processors in their attempts to extend battery life. Japan's NEC recently combined the low-power Crusoe processor with a reflective TFT (thin film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) and Polymer-Ion battery in its recently launched LaVie MX computer.

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