Intel Cites Graphics Problems In Centrino 2 Delay

A flawed integrated graphics controller in the GM45/GM47 chipsets means the upcoming version of the Core 2 package is expected to ship on July 14.
Intel on Wednesday said a problem with the integrated graphics controller that assists a computer's microprocessor in rendering video and other graphics prompted the chipmaker to delay the release of the Centrino 2 mobile platform until mid-July.

Intel on Tuesday said the new platform would ship July 14 instead of June, which is when it was expected. Centrino 2 includes Intel's 45-nanometer Core 2 processor, formerly code-named Penryn.

The flawed integrated graphics controller was in the GM45/GM47 chipsets available with the new platform. The IGC's purpose is to off-load graphics rendering from the CPU and is typically used in computers that don't need the higher level of power delivered through separate graphics cards from companies like Nvidia or Advanced Micro Devices' ATI unit.

Intel declined to provide details on the problem, which was discovered during validation and testing of the chipsets. The company, however, said it was fixed. "It won't be a problem in the future," an Intel spokeswoman told InformationWeek. "We've resolved it."

Graphics technology within chipsets has grown in importance as personal computers are increasingly used to view and edit video and photos. On the higher end of computing, graphics rendering is a differentiator for chipmakers in PC gaming. Nvidia and AMD's ATI unit are major suppliers of discrete graphics cards for computers, and Intel is boosting its presence in the market through integrated graphics in chipsets, which are also offered by AMD.

The delay as an isolated incident is not expected to have much impact on Intel or its customers, Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said.

"Isolated, small delays such as this don't mean much if they are, indeed, isolated," Haff said in response to an e-mail query. "And, in the absence of information to the contrary or any recent pattern of problems, that has to be the working assumption" in this case.

Another contributor to the delay was a correction that Intel had to make in paperwork sent to the Federal Communications Commission, which certifies the 802.11n wireless controllers, code-named Shirley Peak, within the chipsets. The controllers are the transmitters and receivers for wireless data. That problem has also been taken care of, the spokeswoman said.

The Centrino 2 platform will be available with Core and Extreme processors July 14, along with chipsets without integrated graphics controllers. Extreme chips are high-end processors used in PC gaming. In the first week of August, Intel plans to make the platform available with the GM45/GM47 chipsets.

Centrino 2, which is expected to offer faster performance and longer battery life than previous mobile products, is the first platform to offer an integrated Wi-Fi and WiMax wireless access option, Intel said. In addition, the processor and other components are about 40% smaller, making them an option for mini- and sub-notebooks.

On the graphics side, the platform offers native hardware support for high-definition entertainment from DVDs in the Blu-ray format.

The Centrino 2 platform is built using Intel's new manufacturing process that shrinks the size of transistors on a chip to 45 nanometers, thereby increasing the number of the components on each processor. With more transistors than Intel's previous 65-nm chips, the newest processors are able to deliver more processing power at the same level of energy consumption.

AMD also is readying a new notebook platform. The company is scheduled to make an announcement next week.

Notebook sales are the key drivers behind the PC market. In 2009, shipments are expected to surpass desktop sales for the first time. This year, shipments are expected to reach 136 million units, up 25.8% from 2007, according to analyst Alex Yang of Lehman Brothers. By contrast, desktop shipments will decline about 1.3% from 2007 to reach 143 million units.