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Intel leads processor parade

The chipmaker launches a new collection of processors designed for notebooks ranging from hefty PCs to svelte mini-notebooks.

Intel on Monday launched a new collection of processors designed for notebooks ranging from hefty PCs to svelte mini-notebooks.

As previously reported, Intel unveiled its anticipated 2.2GHz Pentium 4-M chip--the company's fastest mobile processor to date. The new Pentium 4-M chip is designed for full-size notebooks, or portable computers typically weighing between 4 and 7 pounds with either a 14-inch or 15-inch screen.

In addition to 4-M chip, the company has also taken the wraps off new processors for thinner, lighter notebooks. Intel is offering two new "ultra-low voltage" Pentium III-M chips, running at 850MHz and 866MHz, and two ultra-low voltage Celerons, running at 700MHz and 733MHz. Celeron is Intel's budget line of processors.

Ultra-low voltage processors use less power and, in turn, generate less heat--making the chips a perfect fit for mini-notebooks that typically weigh 3 pounds or less. Ultra-low voltage chips are also expected to appear in tablet PCs later this year.

Notebooks, in contrast to their desktop brethren, have been a bright spot in the sagging PC market. While desktops shipments have been sinking since 2000, unit shipments of notebooks have increased in each of the last three years.

Overall, notebook unit sales grew by 6 percent in the second quarter, compared with the same period last year, according to Gartner. Over the same time period, PC shipments declined by 1 percent.

Retail notebook sales in the United States have grown 10 percent to 30 percent in the last few months, compared with year-ago figures, according to NPD Techworld.

Full-size notebooks (5-7 pounds)

Chip name Clock speed List price
  Pentium 4-M     2.2GHz     $562  
  Pentium III-M     1.33GHz     $508  
  Pentium III-M     1.26GHz     $401  
  Celeron     1.8GHz     $149  
  Celeron     1.7GHz     $134  
  Celeron     1.6GHz     $112  
Thin, light notebooks (3.5 to 5 pounds)

Chip name Clock speed List price
  Low voltage
Pentium III-M

    1GHz     $316  
Mini-notebooks (3.5 pounds or less)

Chip name Clock speed List price
  Pentium III-M **     866MHz     $209  
  Pentium III-M **     850MHz     $209  
  Celeron **     733MHz     $144  
  Celeron **     700MHz     $144  
**ultra-low voltage

Source: Intel
Intel expects PC manufacturers to pick and choose among the new processor collection, spokeswoman Shannon Johnson said.

"These 11 new processors announced today are based on...the needs of our customers," she said.

Almost all of the major notebook manufacturers have plans to use the 2.2GHz Pentium 4-M. HP expects to offer the new chip in at least one notebook. It did add the chip to the Compaq Presario 2800 model, a notebook that comes with a 14.1-inch screen, 128MB of RAM, a 20MB hard drive and a CD-ROM drive. It sells for $1,864.

A more expensive configuration from HP pairs the processor with a 15-inch screen, 512MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive and a combination CD-rewritable and DVD drive. The notebook sells for $2,424, according to HP's Web site.

Dell Computer plans to offer the 2.2GHz chip in Inspiron 4150 and 8200 notebooks for $1,999 and $1,799, respectively.

Gateway expects to update the Gateway 600 notebook with the new Intel 2.2MHz chip. The company plans to start taking orders for the notebook, which starts at $2,099 before rebates, on Sept 23. Toshiba will add the 2.2GHz chip to its Tecra 9100 notebook line, a company representative said. Pricing isn't yet available.

More chip bounty
Intel also introduced both 1.26GHz and 1.33GHz Pentium III-M chips, in addition to three new Celeron chips running at 1.6GHz, 1.7GHz and 1.8GHz.

These chips are geared for "thin and light" notebooks--typically smaller than portable computers that can handle Pentium 4 chips, yet not quite as small as mini-notebooks. The new Celerons are based, however, on Intel's mobile Pentium 4. In June, Intel began to ship Celerons based on the Pentium III architecture.

While many of the Celeron chips will end up in consumer PCs, the new Pentium III-M chips are more likely to find their way into notebooks designed for businesses as many companies have not yet made the switch to Pentium 4-M chips.