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Intel notebooks to hit 200 MHz

Intel is going to help MMX notebook PCs keep better pace with MMX desktops.

Intel (INTC) is going to help MMX notebook PCs keep better pace with MMX desktops.

The company will take its MMX Pentium to the next level of performance later this year when it brings out a new multimedia-capable chip for notebooks code-named Tillamook.

Notebook PCs, because of their more cramped design, must use special processors that consume less power and run cooler than their desktop counterparts. Because of this limitation, the fastest processor Intel can now put in a notebook PC is a 166-Mhz MMX Pentium.

Chip design for desktop PCs has continued to race ahead of notebooks. The 200-MHz MMX Pentium cannot be used in typical notebook designs, and Intel's top-of-the-line Pentium Pro processor is a definite no-no for notebooks because it draws too much power and runs too hot.

Moreover, this gap will be exacerbated in the second quarter of this year when Intel is expected to announce a new MMX-capable P6 processor, code-named Klamath. This next-generation Pentium Pro chip will run at speeds of 233 MHz and 266 MHz but will not be eligible for notebooks.

"Notebook PC makers are unhappy with being left more than two years behind the desktop in getting to the P6 generation, and they are looking for something to keep their products moving up in performance," said Michael Slater in the Microprocessor Report, an industry newsletter.

But Tillamook is expected to alleviate this gap somewhat. The Tillamook design should allow MMX Pentiums to run at 200 MHz in notebooks.

This will be a boon to the slew of notebook vendors who announced 150- and 166-MHz MMX Pentium notebooks this week, including IBM, Toshiba, Compaq Computer, Texas Instruments, and NEC.

If a chip such as Tillamook did not appear in 1997, these vendors would be forced to wait until 1998--an eternity in computer time--when a new version of the Klamath P6 chip known as Deschutes would finally be ready for notebooks. This, however, does not take into account chip vendors such as Advanced Micro Devices or Cyrix delivering a competitive processor for notebooks, something that is still a possibility.

The new Tillamook chip could also be used as a fast MMX Pentium processor for desktops, though this is less certain since Intel has stated in the past that it intends to go no higher than 200 MHz for the Pentium processor.

Nevertheless, analysts believe it could happen. "This could take the desktop [Pentium] to 266 MHz," said Martin Reynolds, a chip analyst at Dataquest.