Intel Releases Sonoma Update to Centrino

Microprocessor giant Intel Corporation yesterday launched a new version of its Centrino platform for mobile computing, which includes a new version of its Pentium-M mobile processor. Code-named Sonoma, the update touches each piece of the Centrino platform, including the processor, the wireless adapter, and the underlying chipset.

At the center of the new Centrino platform is the 915 Express chipset, which replaces the earlier Intel 855 chipset. The 915 chipset adds support for the newer PCI Express bus type, DDR-2 memory, and Dolby Digital/Dolby 7.1 surround sound audio, and it bumps the front-side bus speed from 400 MHz to 533 MHz.

The wireless adapter gains a number of security-oriented features, including compatibility with 802.11i and Wireless Protected Access (WPA) 2. Intel has also improved the firmware in the wireless adapter to work in tandem with new PC-based software that makes it easier for Centrino-based systems to connect to hot spots, the company says.

As for the microprocessor, the Pentium-M has been updated across the board, with various versions ranging from an ultra-low-voltage model that runs at 1.2 GHz all the way up to a barn-burning 2.13 GHz Pentium-M that offers desktop levels of performance. Intel says that systems based on the Sonoma generation of Centrino will exhibit a graphics improvement of 90 percent over comparable previous generation Centrino systems, while battery life has improved as well.

First introduced in 2003, the Centrino has proven to be a huge hit for Intel, and it's changed the way the company develops its desktop chips as well. Every major PC maker, including Dell, HP, and IBM, have pledged to support the new Centrino, and many companies are already shipping hardware based on the new design. Intel says that over 80 notebook PC models including the new platform are shipping now, and that over 150 will appear by the end of the year.

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