Mobile Chips On The Move - InformationWeek

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2/24/2006
10:25 AM
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Mobile Chips On The Move

AMD and Intel's battle over the mobile market is good for customers, but know what you're getting before you buy

This year, Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are bringing the dual-core movement to a laptop near you. But look at the category carefully before you leap into a buying decision.

It's only February, and we've already seen the first dual-core laptop processor. That's a great sign for the coming year. After all, a pitched battle between Intel and AMD to meet booming mobile computing demand can only mean powerful processors and affordable prices.

AMD's Turion 64 held its own last year.

AMD's Turion 64 held its own last year.
Intel is determined that 2006 will mark a return to the dominant role it played throughout the 1990s. The reason for the chipmaker's confidence? It anticipates a sizable technology advantage from its promising new mobile CPU architecture that will debut later this year.

Rest assured that AMD shares no part of this vision. Despite trailing Intel in the mobile processor market, the company has enjoyed astounding success and made significant competitive inroads in the desktop market.

This surge in popularity can be attributed primarily to Advanced Micro Devices' early understanding of the all-important notion of performance per watt, which emphasizes fast processor speeds but only with reasonable levels of power usage. But can the underdog chipmaker overcome the marketing juggernaut that is the Centrino platform?

As we enter 2006, it's clear that the mobile processors are on the verge of the same massive shift as the desktop market. This year--finally--the dual-core movement is coming to a laptop near you. Intel is already there, and AMD isn't far behind. By the end of 2006, the mobile computing platform will experience dramatic leaps in two seemingly opposing metrics: Processing power will skyrocket, yet battery consumption will simultaneously decrease.

Early last month, Intel fired the first shot in the 2006 mobile processor campaign when it released the first-ever dual-core mobile processor, the Core Duo. Formerly code-named Yonah, the Core Duo is a highly efficient 65-nanometer processor. One of the key developments with this CPU is the presence of a shared 2 Mbyte L2 cache. Named SmartCache, this feature--which the first-generation Pentium D dual-core desktop processors lacked--allows for improved communications between the two CPU cores and faster data processing.

Early online tests comparing the Core Duo to a Pentium M (Intel's previous line of mobile processors) of the same clock speed have indicated performance gains of 30% with a simultaneous 15% increase in battery life. That's quite impressive.

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