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Dueling Dual-Cores: 2006 Mobile CPU Forecast

This year--finally--Intel and AMD are bringing the dual-core movement to a laptop near you. But look at the category carefully before you leap into a buying decision.
Making The Right Buying Decision
Okay, so the thought of moving to mobile dual-core has your heart racing and your breath coming faster and faster, right? That's good. We're pretty excited ourselves. There's no doubt that dual-core laptops will provide excellent levels of performance and increased battery life.

Mobile CPUs In 2006

•  Introduction

•  Intel Fires First: Core Duo

•  Intel Ups The Ante: Merom

•  AMD Retaliates: Turion 64

•  What And When To Buy

But as you begin to plan the purchase of your next laptop (or set of laptops), keep these five considerations in mind.

1. Consider Merom. If you pride yourself on buying machines with peak performance, you should wait for Intel to release its Merom-based processors in the second half of 2006. If you buy a Core Duo-based laptop today, you'll probably find yourself disappointed in seven or eight months. In addition to an expected increase in performance, Merom CPUs will add 64-bit extensions, which Windows Vista -- also scheduled for release later this year -- will actually take advantage of.

2. Wait for Turion dual-core. Sure, AMD's dual-core Turion 64 processors lack the sex appeal of Centrino Duo. But how will they perform? It may be worth waiting a few months to find out. With this said, however, we don't expect to see a major performance difference between the two.

3. Wait for thin-and-light? Given AMD's cryptic hints about targeting the thin-and-light category, it might be worth waiting a few months to see what AMD has up its sleeve before buying that ultra-portable three-pound laptop. If (and admittedly this is a big if) AMD is able to innovate a major performance-per-watt breakthrough in this category, you'll be sorry if you recently forked over $2,000 for old technology.

4. Summer and fall will bring lower prices. If you positively, absolutely must have a new laptop today, you won't go wrong with an Intel Core Duo laptop. But keep in mind that when Intel releases its brand-new mobile processor architecture later this year, prices for existing Core Duos should drop.

Desktop CPU Forecast

What do Intel and AMD have planned for the desktop this year? See Chips In 2006: A CPU Roadmap for answers.

5. Get low prices now. Because Intel recently released the Core Duo, you can probably find a stellar bargain on an older and still fairly speedy previous-gen Centrino- or Turion 64-based laptop today.

George Jones is a 14-year veteran of technology and gaming journalism. He's been an avid tech-head since the day he first screwed the plastic lid off his Commodore VIC-20.

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