Intel Spouts Dual-Speed Laptop Chip

On January 18, Intel announced its SpeedStep chip for laptops, previously code-named Geyserville. The idea behind SpeedStep is that your laptop will run longer if your processor steps down its speed when you’re running off the batteries; however, when you're running on an AC line, you should get the kind of maximum performance from your CPU that desktop users achieve. Intel's market research indicated that laptops run on AC power about 70 percent of the time. The company created the SpeedStep chips in response to that research. The SpeedStep processor runs at two speeds. When you connect the laptop to an AC outlet, the chip runs at the higher speed. When you unplug the laptop and it begins to draw from its batteries, the chip slows down and runs at a lower, more energy-efficient speed. Laptop users can also manipulate the processor directly through the Windows Control Panel, telling the chip to go into Maximum Performance Mode even when it's running on battery power. This capability lets users burn battery power when they need the extra processing speed. Specifications for the SpeedStep chips are as follows: Mobile Pentium III processor (with Intel SpeedStep technology) 650MHz: Maximum Performance Mode, 650MHz, 1.6 volts; Active Power, 9.1 watts; Thermal Design Power, typically 14 watts. Battery Optimized Mode, 500MHz, 1.35 volts; Active Power, 5.1 watts; Thermal Design Power, typically 7.9 watts. Mobile Pentium III processor (with Intel SpeedStep technology) 600MHz: Maximum Performance Mode, 600MHz, 1.6 volts; Active Power, 8.5 watts; Thermal Design Power, typically 13 watts. Battery Optimized Mode, 500MHz, 1.35 volts; Active Power, 5.1 watts; Thermal Design Power, typically 7.9 watts. Low-power mobile Pentium III processor 500MHz (fixed frequency): Both modes, 500MHz, 1.35 volts; Active Power, 5.1 watts; Thermal Design Power, typically 7.9 watts. All SpeedStep chips are Pentium IIIs now; Celeron SpeedStep chips might be available by late summer. Intel claims that the chips are compatible with all major PC OSs, including Windows 9x, Windows NT 4.0, and Windows 2000 (Win2K). In 1000-unit volumes, the 650/500MHz chips cost $637 each, and the 600/500MHz chips cost $423 each. (For comparison, a 500MHz Pentium III from Intel costs $294.) The primary benefit of SpeedStep is the increased top-end speeds for state-of-the-art laptops. Typically, laptop CPU speeds lag behind desktop CPU speeds by about 30 percent. With SpeedStep, the top-end speeds of both are similar. However, any road warrior who thinks that SpeedStep will make a difference on those cross-country airplane trips is mistaken. First, SpeedStep only brings about a 30-percent drop in CPU power consumption. Second, because the CPU represents no more than 25 percent of a laptop’s power consumption—screens and disk drives are the two major power consumers—the power savings represents only about 8 percent of the total power consumed.

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