Centrino processor details emerge

— 4:21 PM on January 27, 2003

C|Net has a few new details on just what kind of processors Intel will make available with its upcoming Centrino mobile platform. The Pentium-M processor, formerly known as Banias, will apparently be available in speeds from 1.3 to 1.6GHz at launch. Ultra low and low-power versions of the chip will also be available clocked at 900MHz and 1.1GHz, respectively.

The Pentium-M processor should be able to complete more instructions per cycle than the Pentium 4, so the new mobile chips could be competitive performers despite topping out at only 1.6GHz. Given that Intel is aggressively pursuing high clock speeds for its desktop and notebook processors, I have to wonder how they'll market a processor with such a low comparative clock speed. Centrino is likely to be sold more on its power-saving and mobile features rather than its all-out performance, but many customers will undoubtedly wonder about performance.

In a perfect world, the consumer would understand that big numbers aren't everything, and would know what IPC is all about. Unfortunately, our world is far from perfect, and consumers have a tendency to be easily led by big numbers.

So what's Intel to do? Should they try to explain that MHz isn't all that matters when it comes to a processors performance, potentially damaging the allure of the Pentium 4's high clock speeds? Should they establish a Pentium-M rating scheme that grades the processor's performance relative to the Pentium 4? Should they leave it up to commission-driven salespeople to explain the ins and outs of processor performance to bewildered mainstream customers?

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