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Intel Montevina Plus enables cheap ultraportables

Low-power chip destined for high-end laptops

Intel has reaffirmed that it is preparing new ultra-low-voltage (ULV) chips, due in the second quarter, for inexpensive ultraportable laptops.

The company will ship the ULV chips as part of its Montevina Plus mobile laptop platform, an updated version of the existing Montevina platform, said Connie Brown, a company spokeswoman.

The chips could go into thin and small laptops that provide full PC functionality but are cheaper than existing ultraportable laptops.

Laptops based on Intel's ULV chips could be as thin as Apple's MacBook Air or Dell's recently launched Adamo. In announcing the chips, Intel said it wanted to bring ultraportable laptops to the masses.

"You'll see many more of the ultra-thin laptop models at a variety of price points, and not just on the high end. This will give both business and general consumers more choice," Brown said.

The new chips will fit into small spaces and use less power than existing Core 2 Duo ULV chips, which draw about 10W of power. Intel's Core 2 ULV chips are mostly used in ultraportable laptops such as Lenovo's X300, Apple's MacBook Air and Fujitsu's LifeBook P8020. Intel also currently offers inexpensive chips for thin and light laptops such as netbooks, but those PCs are only designed to perform basic functions such as web browsing and word processing.

The new ULV chips could disrupt rival chip maker AMD's bid for a larger share of the inexpensive ultraportable market. AMD in January launched the Athlon Neo chip for inexpensive ultraportables. At the time, AMD criticised the premium pricing of ultraportable laptops that carry Intel's ULV chips, saying users don't have an appetite for expensive ultraportables such as the MacBook Air and that pricing has been a key impediment to the adoption of such laptops.

Intel's Montevina Plus platform also will offer new chips running as fast as 3.06GHz, for mainstream laptops.

Montevina Plus is likely to be Intel's most important update to its laptop platforms before the company starts shipping the new Arrandale chips for laptops later this year. The Arrandale chips will be manufactured using a 32-nanometre process.

Arrandale chips integrate a graphics processor and CPU in one chip, which could boost graphics performance while drawing less power than existing Core 2 processors. Arrandale chips will also be more energy-efficient, which could improve laptop battery life. Clock speeds on Arrandale processors should be similar to chips used in existing laptops, but offer better performance by running applications through more threads while drawing less power.

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