Laptops

Centrino 2: What's in the Intel sequel?

Intel's Centrino 2 is finally here, but what'll it do for you? Voyage with us, geeks, as we break down the tech behind 2008's hottest laptops

Centrino is dead -- it's official. But don't worry. Intel has launched Centrino 2 -- codenamed 'Montevina' -- to stave off competition from AMD, and to cement its place as the world's number one choice for laptops.

But before we go any further, we can't help but wonder -- what's with the name? Until now, all the updates to the original Centrino brand weren't deemed worthy of a new public-facing name. Instead, they were given internal codenames: 'Carmel' (2003), 'Sonoma' (2005), 'Napa' (2006) and 'Santa Rosa', all of which were different, but still sold to the public as merely Centrino.

So is Centrino 2 truly different? What's it packing? What'll it do for you? Voyage with us, geeks, as we break down the tech behind 2008's hottest laptops. -Rory Reid

Processors
To qualify as a Centrino laptop, machines need to have a particular type of CPU, motherboard chipset and Wi-Fi adaptor, all built to provide longer battery life and guarantee connectivity to hotspots. As of 14 July, Intel will unveil a new collection of CPUs, chipsets and Wi-Fi adaptors -- all built to make the Centrino sequel a must have.

Centrino 2 will use the latest 45nm Intel Core 2 processors, codenamed Penryn. There's plenty of choice, too. Any chip with the model number 'Txxxx' -- currently the 2.8GHz T9600 and 2.53GHz T9400 -- will be aimed at performance enthusiasts. Any CPU with the part number 'Pxxxx' belongs to the 'power-optimised performance' range, so they'll be quick, but they'll give you longer battery life, save trees and prolong the life of our planet.

The 'SPxxxx', 'SLxxxx', 'SUxxxx', and 'Uxxxx' are part of the 'performance small form factor' group, and will fit into slim and light machines such as the MacBook Air, Lenovo X300 and Toshiba R500.

Chipsets
There's a slew of new motherboard chipsets, too, dubbed GM45, GM47 or PM45. The GM45 and GM47 both have a high-speed 1,066MHz front side bus -- basically a lightning-quick highway for transferring data between the memory and the CPU -- and will support DDR2 and -- for the first time -- DDR3 memory, which has a higher peak throughput than previous memory technologies.

Both chipsets will feature Intel's new X4500 HD integrated graphics adaptor, which has integrated HDMI and DisplayPort. Both are also DirectX 10-compliant, but if games are important to you, opt for the GM47, since that has a slightly faster graphics core -- 640MHz versus 533MHz.

The aforementioned PM45 chipset supports all the same features, but lacks an integrated graphics adaptor. It'll therefore be the chipset of choice for high-end gaming laptops, and will come with either ATI or Nvidia graphics solutions.

Networking
The third pillar of Centrino -- networking -- is also well thought-out. High-speed 1,000Mbps Gigabit Ethernet is standard, and you get a choice of new wireless adaptors. Laptops with the top of the line Intel Wi-Fi link 5350 will come with three transmit and three pick-up antennae, plus WiMax, while the slightly slower Intel Wi-Fi link 5150 will feature two pick-up and one transmit antennae, plus WiMax. WiMax-free versions of these adaptors are also likely to appear.

Other additions
Finally, Centrino 2 laptops will have the option of 2GB of Turbo Memory -- an optional memory component designed to speed up the execution of commonly used applications. It'll also be Windows ReadyDrive and ReadyBoost-compliant. The former allows laptops to use hybrid (solid state and mechanical) hard disks, while the latter lets you use the space on a USB key as extra system memory.