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Intel powers down with new chips

The chipmaker launches five mobile Pentium III and Celeron processors that cut back on power consumption and heat, which will allow PC makers to build thinner, lighter notebooks.

Intel wants to be the king of energy-saving processors.

The chipmaker on Monday launched five new mobile Pentium III and Celeron processors, ranging from 600MHz to 800MHz. Four of the five new chips operate at lower voltage than the company's standard mobile processors.

By cutting back on the processors' power consumption and heat production, the new chips will allow PC makers to build thinner, lighter notebooks.

Intel believes the "thin and light" notebook category will grow in popularity as notebook PCs come down in price. Over the next two years, the company believes the thin-and-light segment, machines that weigh 5 pounds or less, will grow to 60 percent or more of the market. Currently, thin-and-light notebooks make up about 40 percent of the market, according to Intel.

If the company is right, low-power chips will become the hottest-selling mobile processors. Intel is attempting to establish a foothold in that market, racing with competitors Advanced Micro Devices and Transmeta to offer the most performance for the fewest volts.

"Success in the notebooks space will (come for) whoever can deliver the optimal balance of performance and power," said Don MacDonald, director of marketing for Intel's mobile products group.

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 Intel: Thin is in
Frank Spindler, VP of Mobile Platforms Group, Intel
This is why Intel has gone to the effort to produce a range of chips to meet the power and performance requirements of different notebook segments, he said.

The new processors include a "low voltage" 750MHz mobile Pentium III, an "ultra-low-voltage" 600MHz mobile Pentium III, and two low-power 600MHz Celeron chips. Intel also launched a traditional 800MHz mobile Celeron chip.

The low-power Pentium III is aimed at the thin-and-light notebook, while the ultra-low-power Pentium III addresses the mini-notebook market--machines weighing 3 pounds or less.

The low-power chips operate at power levels from 1.35 volts to 0.975 volts, while the standard 800MHz Celeron chip, for comparison, needs 1.6 volts.

The low-power 750MHz mobile Pentium III runs at 750MHz and 1.35 volts while plugged into AC power, but it uses Intel's SpeedStep technology to downshift to 1.1 volts at 500MHz when the notebook runs on battery power. The ultra-low-power 600MHz Pentium III begins at 1.1 volts and uses SpeedStep to power down to 0.975 volts at 300MHz.

Intel will also offer two low-power mobile Celeron chips running at 600MHz. One runs at 1.35 volts and is aimed at thin-and-light notebooks, while the other runs at 1.1 volts and is for mini-notebooks.

Low-power processors have become an intensely competitive area for chipmakers.

Transmeta, which manufactures low-power chips exclusively, will launch faster versions of its Crusoe processor for notebooks in the second half of the year. The company has made inroads with a number of Japanese PC makers, including Toshiba.

AMD later in the year plans to offer a version of its recently announced Athlon 4 chip with lower-profile packaging--the apparatus for attaching the chip to the motherboard--for use in thin-and-light notebooks.