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Intel vs. AMD: Centrino Duo/Turion 64 X2 laptop showdown

We all know how great Intel's Centrino Duo laptop processor is, but how does it compare to the brand new Turion 64 X2 from rivals AMD?

Lukewarm on the heels of Intel's Centrino Duo mobile processors (and following the news that there'll be a Core 2 Duo), AMD has just launched its own dual-core mobile chips, known as the Turion 64 X2 Mobile series. Like the Centrino Duo chips, the X2 is designed with multi-tasking performance and long battery life in mind.

We've got one of the first laptops to take advantage of the new chip. Politics dictates that we can't tell you who it's from, but luckily we can still put it through its paces to see how AMD's new mobile chip compares to the existing Intel offerings.

The X2-powered laptop (we'll call it 'Gemima') uses the fastest X2 processor in the range, the 2GHz TL-60, 1GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce Go 7600 graphics adaptor. We compared it to the Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi for performance and the results make for interesting reading.

The Travelmate, which uses a 2GHz Centrino Duo T2600 processor and 2GB of RAM, achieved a PCMark 2005 score of 4,236. By comparison, the new X2-powered Gemima achieved 4,025. This indicates that the new AMD chip is around 5 per cent slower, but let's not forget that the Travelmate has twice as much memory, which may have influenced its score slightly.

We should also remember that the X2 is a 64-bit chip (the Core Duo is 32-bit) and will, in theory, wipe the floor with Intel Core Duo when running alongside a 64-bit operating system such as Windows Vista.

Swings and roundabouts you may argue. But what about the graphics performance? We subjected both laptops to demanding 3DMark 2006 tests, and the Travelmate won that battle too, scoring 1,999 versus Gemima's 1,649. Our friends at Nvidia claim Gemima's GeForce Go 7600 should have beaten the Travelmate's Radeon X1600 comfortably, but not in this case. Regardless, we'd love to see how the two CPUs fare when using identical graphics processing units (GPUs).

Despite its apparent loss, the X2 fared very well against its Centrino Duo competition, especially in light of the fact that the TL-60 costs nearly £300 less than the equivalent T2600 Intel chip. This means X2-powered laptops should be cheaper than their Intel counterparts, but we expect Intel to chop its prices to stay competitive.

We'll let you know how the X2 laptop fared in the other critical area of laptop performance -- battery life -- in the coming days, and have a full review appearing in the very near future. -RR