In an attempt to address ongoing consumer concerns over the speed, weight and battery life of notebook computers, Intel last week released a mobile Pentium III processor with its SpeedStep technology.
With SpeedStep, the new 600 and 650MHz processors have the capability of operating in two different modes - maximum performance mode and battery optimised mode.
The system, by default, automatically chooses which mode to run in, depending on whether the computer is operating on batteries or is plugged into AC power.
A notebook with the mobile 650MHz PIII operating on AC power will run at 650MHz, 1.6 volts and 13.4 watts. However, when running off the computer's battery, the system will reduce its operating output to 500MHz, 1.35 volts, and 7.9 watts.
As a result, according to Intel the processors allow notebook manufacturers to incorporate 650MHz of performance into a range of designs, such as `thin and light', and full-size mobile PCs, with significantly longer battery life - computers that Intel's channel platform engineer, Sean Casey, referred to as `no-compromise' notebooks.
According to Casey, users will not notice any performance difference when a 650MHz processor is reduced to 500MHz, because of the system's dual frequency and voltage scaling, which means a 50 per cent reduction in power usage equates to only a 20 per cent reduction in performance.
However, Casey admitted that the `real' power savings would depend on what type of notebook the processor was running.
According to a December report from analyst IDC, 80 per cent of mobile users think their CPU speed is insufficient, 82 per cent believe their notebook is too heavy, and 93 per cent think their battery does not last long enough.
In related news, Linus Torvald's Transmeta Corporation plans to launch its new Crusoe microprocessor. While little is known about the details of the technology, some reports have claimed the Crusoe is an embedded-class very-long-instruction-word (VLIW) processor.
According to Casey, the launch of Intel's SpeedStep mobile processor - less than 24 hours before Transmeta's Crusoe launch - was nothing more than a coincidence. In fact, he said, he was unaware of the Crusoe processor until last week.