CPUs on The Move
The mobile CPU war continues apace. But is the 1GHz mobile Pentium III already available?
After a year of watching Intel and AMD battle neck and neck for the CPU market, it's easy to spot when Intel are worried about something. The most telltale sign is that they defy their own roadmap of releases in order to get the jump on a competitor, and judging by today's news, this is just what they are doing. German group Media Markt has started to advertise a notebook computer based on a 1GHz Pentium III processor. However, Intel's roadmap, which recently underwent detailed analysis at The Register, claims that such a processor will not be available until March. Although normally this would fail to raise an eyebrow, it comes only days after the news that Dell are advertising PCs in the USA which use 1.3GHz Pentium 4 CPUs, which similarly should not be available if the roadmap is to be believed. It is unlikely that the two releases are a coincidence, coming as they do so close to one another. AMD's own mobile Athlon and Duron parts are already ramping up for release, so it is little surprise to see Intel making a move to try and eclipse their media exposure. It has been almost year since the ratrace for the 1GHz barrier in desktop PCs was making headlines. It's entirely possible that Intel are taking no chances this time and opting to subdue the opposition in one fell swoop. Reports at The Register suggest that the mobile PIII 1GHz advertised by Media Markt may in fact be a normal desktop Pentium III, which would likely refuse to operate without a battery recharge after a matter of minutes. A recent article at Tom's Hardware explained the difficulty of manufacturing safe and reliable mobile processors, listing thermal design, active cooling and other issues as the most important aspects of a mobile processor's development. With desktop CPUs, cooling is usually an afterthought thanks to the space available within the average PC case. AMD's "PowerNow!" solution, shown off extensively at recent trade show Comdex, will fight Intel on a different level. With the mobile Athlon and Duron CPUs not expected until the second quarter of this year, the K6-based technology will use only the CPU cycles it needs, operating at idle speeds of some 200MHz and ramping up to speeds of 533MHz under load. The variable power consumption will mean longer battery life, something that Intel have been battling to match in the last year, unsuccessfully so far. Many laptops last less than two hours under average levels of use before requiring a recharge. This writer's PII-400 laptop can handle barely three minutes rendering something complex like Half-Life under Windows 2000 using the battery. PowerNow! can be seen in action in hardware e-zine The Tech Report's coverage of Comdex.