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Sexed-up 70s silicon

ComponentsThere's little doubt that Intel continues to run the show inside most new PCs on the market. If we want the most efficient, powerful chips to run our computers, we must still turn to Intel.

AMD, meanwhile, hasn't quite got its technology right for most consumers. It makes some fire-breathing processors for servers and enthusiasts' PCs, often coming in a few pounds cheaper than their Intel alternatives. This issue, for instance, we had a look at its six-core chip for power PC fans in the Mesh MatriX6 Xi. But laptop enthusiasts have much less choice from AMD, and certainly little that will keep their lap cool, let alone occupied for more than a few hours.

That's not to say Intel's hegemony will last forever. Mobile computing is the future and, despite over 30 years of refinement, the old IBM x86 architecture that's bread and butter for both Intel and AMD simply doesn't ?have much to offer pocket computing.

Yet IBM/Pentium chip technology is still in use by every Windows PC – and most Macs – right now. We've seen staggering gains in performance per watt over the past four years: first with the Intel Core 2 Duo chips, and now with the mobile versions of Core i3, i5 and i7. We're finally seeing all-day computing strolling hand-in-hand with superlative performance.

To see what advances the latter series has made in mobile computing, read our reviews of the Core i7 Apple MacBook Pro, Core i5 Acer 5942G and Core i3 Samsung R580. Suffice to say that we're impressed.

But these laptops still need healthy-sized batteries. Acer and Samsung both take large 48Wh batteries, and give back around four hours of life in return. Apple uses more advanced lithium-polymer cells – non-removable, mind, but more than 60Wh in capacity. Its laptops last up to 10 hours on one charge, an amazing breakthrough for any laptop boasting desktop-level performance and weighing little over 2kg.

Just remember that despite Intel's stubborn efforts to get Atom processors into smartphones, our computing future will almost certainly take a more up-to-date chip architecture than this 1970s tech, this time designed with power efficiency in mind.

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