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Intel takes notebook chips past 3GHz

The increase in speed comes courtesy of a new 3.06GHz mobile Pentium 4 chip, which was introduced as part of a volley of new processors fired off by the chip giant.

Notebooks passed the 3GHz mark on Wednesday.

The increase in speed comes courtesy of a new 3.06GHz mobile Pentium 4 chip, which was introduced as part of a volley of new processors fired off by Intel.

As previously reported, the latest mobile Pentium 4, part of a new family of four chips, marks a change in focus for the notebook version of the P4. The 3.06GHz chip and its siblings, which run at 2.4GHz, 2.66GHz and 2.8GHz, were created for larger, weightier, more performance-oriented notebooks. The chips offer higher clock speeds and lower prices than their predecessors in the Pentium 4-M line.

Intel was able to change the mission of the Pentium 4-M after the company brought out its low-power Pentium M, the keystone in its Centrino family of chips for wireless notebooks. Because the Pentium M was designed to use less power, it found a home in many manufacturers' lighter-weight notebooks. This freed the Pentium 4-M and gave Intel the room to crank up the clock speed on the chip, creating the new mobile Pentium 4. The Pentium 4-M had been limited to 2.5GHz, in part to curb power consumption and to help broaden its appeal for smaller notebooks--an area that the Pentium M now covers.

Intel also slightly altered the DNA of the new mobile Pentium 4. Though the chip is similar to a desktop processor, it has features such as Intel's SpeedStep battery-saving technology turned on. This feature lets the 3.06GHz chip run as slow as 1.6GHz in order to help save energy and boost battery life.

Intel will also change the way that it markets the new mobile Pentium 4. It will bill the chip as faster and cheaper than is the Pentium 4-M and less power hungry than is a Pentium 4 desktop. The chip will appear most often in consumer-oriented notebooks that weigh more than 7 pounds, many manufacturers of which are currently using desktop Pentium 4 processors. Although many companies thought that of that practice as a trend that would die off, notebooks based on desktop Pentium 4 processors, sometimes called desknotes, have proven to be extremely popular with consumers. Many buyers sought out the performance and low price of these systems, despite drawbacks such as a heftier weight and a shorter battery life. Intel is hoping that the new mobile Pentium 4 will replace desktop chips in those systems over time.

One of the first companies to offer the new chip was Dell Computer, though Gateway and other brand-name vendors will begin offering it later.

Dell began offering its new Inspiron 5150 notebook with the 3.06GHz mobile Pentium 4 on Wednesday. The machine starts at about $1,550, a price that includes the new chip with a 15-inch high-resolution display, 256MB of RAM, a 30GB hard drive, a DVD-ROM and a graphics board from ATI Technologies.

"What this new chip enables us to do is provide enhanced performance above what is currently available on our Inspiron 5100 line," said Jennifer Langan, product marketing manager for Inspiron at Dell.

Dell will bill the Inspiron 5150 as a top-of-the-line system for consumers and also small businesses looking to perform tasks like editing photos. However, the Round Rock, Texas-based PC maker will continue to offer its Inspiron 5100 line, which offers desktop Pentium 4 chips at speeds of up to 2.8GHz.

Dell decided to continue with the desktop Pentium 4 to keep its price lower and because power consumption at lower speeds was found to be similar between new mobile Pentium 4 and Pentium 4 desktop chips.

At higher speeds, however, the PC maker found that the new mobile chip consumed less power. The company was able to launch the new mobile Pentium 4-running Inspiron 5150 without having to increase the notebook's size, as it would have been forced to do had it installed a desktop version of the chip, Langan said.

Aside from higher clock speeds and SpeedStep, the new mobile Pentium 4s include a faster 533MHz bus--up from 400MHz--boosting performance by speeding data to the processor. Future versions of the mobile Pentium 4 family are also expected to gain Intel's hyper-threading technology, which boosts performance while multitasking.

While it boosted the Pentium 4, Intel also added faster mobile Celeron chips on Wednesday. The chipmaker added new versions of the chip that run at 2.2GHz, 2.3GHz and 2.4GHz. The chips will offer more clock speed for low-price notebooks.

Finally, although it expects either Pentium M or mobile Pentium 4 chips to take hold in new notebooks, Intel will continue to offer its Pentium 4-M chip line for existing notebooks. The chipmaker augmented the Pentium 4-M with a new 2.6GHz model on Wednesday to help boost existing models.

The other chips launched Wednesday included its 2.6GHz Pentium 4-M and a lower power version of the 2.4GHz Celeron.

Prices on the new mobile Pentium 4 chips range from $186 for the 2.4GHz to $417 for the 3.06GHz version. They are about $16 higher than are desktop chips at the same clock speed. The new Celeron chips list for between $74 for the 2.2GHz and $84 for the 2.4GHz. The low power 2.4GHz Celeron lists for $149, while the 2.6GHz Pentium 4-M is $562.