Leaked HP, Toshiba 'Core i3' laptops not pricey

Due soon from Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, Gateway and others, the first mainstream laptops using Intel's new Core i3 chip are pretty cheap.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
3 min read

Thought that the newest laptop technology is always priced at a premium? Think again. Due in the next few weeks from Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, Gateway and a host of other PC makers, some of the first laptops using Intel's new Core i3 processor will be priced as low as $700.

At the Consumer Electronics Show, which starts January 7, PC makers will debut laptops using Intel's freshly minted Core i3 processor, as was previously reported. Core i series processors are based on Intel's Nehalem microarchitecture. In 2010, the chipmaker will move most of its processor lines from the current Core 2 technology to the Core i design.

Core i3-based laptops are, in a word, cheap. Cheap in the context that these are systems using a brand new processor based on a new Intel microarchitecture--in the past, this kind of technology has commanded a steep premium. A system from HP now posted on online retailer eCost is priced at $865. And a Gateway laptop listed on Canadian retailer Future Shop is priced at $730 Canadian dollars or about $694 U.S. dollars.

And add a Toshiba system to the mix (priced at $799 Canadian dollars or about $763 U.S. dollars). The Toshiba Satellite (PSLS6C-00F005) packs the same Core i3 processor but uses a 16-inch screen, according to a posting on Future Shop.

HP Core i3-based Pavilion laptop (WA786UA#ABA) as listed by eCost:

  • Processor: 2.13GHz Intel Core i3-330m
  • Display: 15.6" LED
  • Memory: 4096MB DDR3
  • Hard disk drive: 320GB 7200rpm
  • Optical drive: DVDRW
  • Operating system: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  • Video card: Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator HD
  • Price listed by eCost: $864.99

The $694 Gateway system has the same screen size (listed with a 1600 x 900 native resolution) and memory configuration as the HP laptop but ups the ante with a 500GB hard disk drive and, most interestingly, uses an as-yet-unannounced ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 graphics chip instead of Intel's graphics silicon.

Gateway Core i3-based laptop is below $700
Gateway Core i3-based laptop is below $700 Future Shop

Product specifications aside, one of the most anticipated laptop technologies at CES this year is Arrandale, the codename for Intel Core i series mobile processors targeted at the mainstream laptop market. The Arrandale-based Core i3 is the first mainstream Intel laptop processor to combine two processor cores and a graphics function together in one chip package (previously, the graphics chip was in a separate chipset), resulting in better overall power efficiency.

And the new built-in graphics technology will offer better graphics performance than current technology, according to Intel. The chipmaker will try in earnest to prove this at CES with plenty of demos showing off Arrandale's graphics prowess. (Though not all PC makers are convinced that Intel's new graphics technology is the way to go, as evidenced by Gateway's decision to use a discrete ATI graphics processor from Advanced Micro Devices).

One thing worth noting is that the Core i3 won't have Turbo Boost technology, which speeds up and slows down individual cores to meet processing and power-efficiency needs, respectively. This will only be offered in higher-end Core i5 and i7 processors--including Arrandale i5 models. However, the Core i3 will have Hyper-Threading, which can double the number of tasks--or threads--a processor can execute. This is not offered in current Core 2 chips.

What you get (pros) and don't get (cons) with the Intel Core i3 mobile processor:

  • Pro: graphics built directly into the CPU, which means better overall power efficiency
  • Pro: improved graphics performance over current Intel 4500MHD graphics silicon
  • Pro: Hyper-Threading
  • Pro: Intel's newest 32-nanometer chip technology
  • Con: no Intel Turbo Boost
  • Con: not four cores, only two
  • Con: relatively small cache memory size

Updated at 6:50 p.m. PST: adding Toshiba Core i3 laptop discussion.