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Intel aims for longer-running handhelds

The chipmaker develops a new XScale PXA processor designed to let handheld devices last for longer periods of time on battery power.

Handhelds running Intel processors are likely to get a significant charge from a new chip.

The chipmaker has developed a new XScale PXA processor, which is meant to boost the battery life of devices by up to 50 percent while also doubling--from 100MHz to 200MHz--the speed at which the processor can communicate with other components within the device, such as memory. The XScale PXA255 is the successor to the current PXA250 and will come with the same clock speeds: 200MHz, 300MHz and 400MHz.

Devices using the new chip will consume between 30 percent to 50 percent less battery power at all clock speeds, according to Intel. The PXA255 will run at 1.3 volts, in comparison with the PXA250, which ran at 1.5 volts. The chip can save battery life in devices by more efficiently managing the power requirements of components that are not in use.

Intel has already sent samples to its customers, and the chip is expected to ship in high volume at the end of the quarter. Details of the chip cropped up late Tuesday on handheld enthusiast site Pocket PC Thoughts.

Mark Miller, a Intel spokesman, confirmed the details about the PXA255.

"These are part of standard improvements that we make to our products for customers," Miller said. He added that no formal announcement of the chip is planned.

The PXA255 chips are designed to use a device's battery power more efficiently in all three performance states--sleep, idle and run.

The new chips aren't expected to cost more for XScale customers than PXA250 chips and are set to replace PXA250 chips in devices from Sony, Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard.

Intel is also working on a processor for cell phones, code-named Manitoba, that is set to be announced by the end of the quarter. Manitoba integrates flash memory, a digital signal processor and an XScale processor core onto a single chip. Manitoba will help in the development of phones that let people wirelessly access the Web and play audio files, as well as make basic phone calls.