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Intel to refresh laptop chips Monday

Intel will refresh its lineup of chips for ultraportable MacBook Air-class laptops on Monday.

Updated at 12:30 p.m. PDT with additional information throughout and corrections to cache size and thermal envelope ratings.

Intel will refresh its lineup of chips for ultraportable laptops on Monday.

The new dual-core processors--targeted at Apple MacBook Air-class laptops--include the 2.53GHz SP9600 priced at $316 with 6MB of cache memory and a thermal envelope rating of 25 watts. Slotted below this chip is the 1.6GHz SU9600 (3MB cache) priced at $289 with a thermal envelope rating of 10 watts.

The lineup also includes a single-core 1.4GHz SU3500 with a thermal envelope of only 5.5 watts. This is priced at $262.

Intel ULV and LV chips due on March 30, 2009:

  • SP9600 / 2.53GHz / 6MB cache / 1066MHz FSB / 2 cores / 25W / $316
  • SL9600 / 2.13GHz / 6MB cache / 1066MHz FSB / 2 cores / 17W / $316
  • SU9600 / 1.60GHz / 3MB cache / 800MHz FSB / 2 cores / 10W / $289
  • SU3500 / 1.4GHz / 3MB cache / 800MHz FSB / 1 core / 5.5W / $262
  • ICP900 / 2.2GHz / 1MB cache / 800MHz FSB / 1 core / 35W / $70
Note: ICP900 is a "Celeron" branded chip.

These new chip models being launched Monday are not the rumored "CULV" (consumer ultra low voltage) processors targeted at inexpensive ultra-thin laptops, according to sources close to Intel. Those future chips--which Intel will not necessarily label CULV--are not due to summer, the sources said.

The future ULV processors for inexpensive ultra-thin laptops--similar to the $700 Hewlett-Packard Pavilion dv2 expected to hit the streets next month--will be priced to allow PC makers to roll out attractive, sleek laptops that are not priced in the stratosphere, like the $1,999 Dell Adamo or $1,799 MacBook Air.

Let's step back for a minute and examine Intel's ULV lineup. Intel low-power mobile processors have been around for a long time but gained prominence with the introduction of ultra-thin luxury laptops such as the MacBook Air and the ThinkPad X300. The newest ULV chips, for instance, power Dell's new Adamo ultra-thin laptops and the update to the ThinkPad X300, the X301. (The Adamo uses Intel Core 2 Duo SU9300 and SU9400 processors.)

Intel Netbook, sleek ULV laptop, and mainstream laptop segmentation
Intel Netbook, sleek ULV laptop, and mainstream laptop segmentation Intel

So, what is the new line of ULV chips due this summer for inexpensive ultraportables? These processors will be a departure from Intel's strategy to date of putting ULV chips into sleek luxury laptops only. The new chips will target the price segment well below the $1,800-and-up luxury laptop market. Prices for these ultra-thin laptops would range between $600 and $1,300, according to Intel.

The processors--at least according to Intel's theoretical game plan--will not compete with the Atom processor that powers Netbooks, which fall below the $500 price point.

But this will be tricky and potentially not clear to customers. For instance, is a $700 Atom-powered Hewlett-Packard Mini 1000 Netbook with built-in broadband Verizon wireless and an 80GB hard disk drive better or worse than a not-so-full featured Pavilion dv2? We'll have to wait and see how this shakes out.