Intel has released seven new notebook processors, while across-the-freeway rival Advanced Micro Devices pumped up its budget desktop lineup with a new 1.3GHz Duron.
The seven new mobile chips span the price and performance spectrum. At the high end, Intel released two low-voltage Pentium III-M chips running at 850MHz and 866MHz for "thin and light" notebooks, which typically weigh four pounds and feature 14-inch screens.
Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel also launched a 750MHz ultra-low voltage Pentium III-M for mini-notebooks, which weigh three pounds or less. The ultra-low voltage chips run on a half of a watt of energy or lower, far less than standard notebook chips, which means manufacturers can eliminate components normally needed to dissipate excess heat produced at higher energy levels.
Toshiba is using the 750MHz ultra-low voltage chip in the Portege 2000, which comes with a 12-inch screen, integrated 802.11b wireless communications and a 20GB hard drive. The machine weighs 2.6 pounds and measures 0.6 inches thick.
In addition, Intel came out with three new Celeron chips that run from 1.06GHz to 1.2GHz and are designed for budget notebooks, as well as an ultra-low voltage Celeron running at 650MHz for budget mini-notebooks.
The new Duron chip, meanwhile, lets Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD close the megahertz gap with Intel in the value desktop segment. At 1.3GHz, the new Duron matches the gigahertz of the speediest Celeron, although many benchmark testers have noted that Duron chips outperform Celerons and often come in PCs that cost less too. The new Duron is priced at $118 each in quantities of 1,000, but buyers will likely see it for less than that.
Notebooks are increasingly becoming more significant for most manufacturers. Although PC sales declined in 2001, notebooks grew as a percentage of overall PC sales and now account for around 25 percent of all PC sales. Last year, Intel came out with 29 mobile chips. AMD, meanwhile, has said it will aggressively seek to gain more of the market in this segment in 2002.
Price declines account for some of the popularity of notebooks. The average selling price of a notebook fell from $2,075 in the third quarter of 2000 to $1,800 in the third quarter of 2001, according to IDC. Many notebooks that once sold for $1,300 to $1,500 range are now selling for $1,100 or so. Dell Computer, among other major manufacturers, has also sporadically offered notebooks for $999.
The trend toward lower prices should continue, say analysts. All of Intel's new chips are made on the 130-nanometer (0.13-micron) manufacturing process, which allows Intel to squeeze twice as many chips out of a wafer than it could with the older 180-nanometer process. More chips per wafer leads directly to discounts because the manufacturing costs can be spread among more products. The nanometer measurements refer to the size of circuits on the chip.
Intel also cut prices on its existing mobile line by 18 percent to 30 percent on Monday with the release of the new chips.
"Intel has been aggressive on Celeron pricing," said Mike Feibus, an analyst at Feibus Consulting. "The 0.13 micron process will give them a lower-cost structure for Celeron, which could pave the way for future (price) cuts."
A number of companies can be expected to adopt some or all of the new processors. IBM is expected to release several new ThinkPad notebook models next week. The ThinkPad R Series will incorporate the 1.06GHz Celeron, while a new ThinkPad X Series ultra-portable will use the 866MHz low-voltage Pentium III-M, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.
News.com's John Spooner contributed to this report.