Mobile Quad-Core Intel Chips Coming

Laptop enthusiasts are finally getting that holy grail of processing power that only their desktop-tethered counterparts had hiterto enjoyed: quad-core processors from Intel [NASDAQ:INTC]. Intel is citing the power-managment improvements they've made with their Centrino 2 mobile processors as allowing them to stuff four cores onto a mobile chip without totally decimating battery life. The company hasn't set a date for the release of their quad-core mobile chipsets.

Multi-core processors are the legacy of a more-is-faster computing trend that swept the industry in the early 2000s and led many manufacturers to produce dual-processor machines. Two processors are indeed faster than one, but they also pose a bit of a logistical problem: dividing up and then conflating all those processing tasks between two wholly separate processors is an encumbrance on the system, not to mention a power-hungry one. Intel responded to OEMs wishes for double-processing power by packing two processor cores onto one chip with the Core Duo (and later, Core 2 Duo), allowing everything -- including power consumption -- to run more efficiently. Since then, desktop computers have gotten quad-core processors, but laptops have been left out of the loop, mainly because the four-core architecture is such an energy hog. 

Energy conservation is one of the biggest roadblocks that processor manufacturers like Intel have to contend with; as processor speeds become stratospheric, so does the amount of heat they produce and the amount of juice to keep them screaming. That energy savings are a priority was made clear with Intel's release of their new Centrino 2 processors this week, with features like "switchable graphics": the ability for chips that have dedicated graphics processors to switch them off and consolidate graphics processing into the main processor when a user wants extended battery life. The current top dog of Intel's mobile line is the new Core 2 Duo Extreme chip running at a whopping 3.06GHz.

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