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Intel Chipset Shootout! 945GM vs. 915GM

Market Conditions Affect Early Intel Centrino Duo CPU Sales

It has been three months since Intel introduced its first mobile dual-core processor platform, code-named "Napa" now called "Centrino Duo." Those who thought that these new, fast and energy-efficient dual-core processors would knock the Pentium M off its pedestal overnight soon learned to curb their enthusiasm. The bad news was initially brought to the forefront in a lead story from Taiwanese news service Digitimes last March. Large laptop and notebook vendors such as Acer, Asus, Dell, and HP had reduced already-committed orders for Centrino Duo platform CPUs and chipsets by 30% to 50%. Among the reasons for this sudden move, Digitimes reported, was that these companies were sitting on large parts inventories owing to an unexpected drop in market demand in the first-quarter 2006.

Some of the drop in demand can be attributed to forward-looking users who want to wait for other CPU products coming in the near future. Other users probably do not want to pay more for a new notebook or laptop compared to what they previously paid, and are willing to wait for discounts on dual core devices. There is also a tendency for some consumers to hold back because they're waiting for native 64-bit support. The delayed launch of Windows Vista, now set for 2007, also contributed to reduced demand for dual.

Also, many consumers are waiting for Microsoft to release a finalized USB Scheduler bug fix before investing in a new platform. The aforementioned patch will hopefully repair a problem with excess power consumption that was discovered by Tom's Hardware Guide. It involves a significant battery drain when laptops, Core Duo or not are connected to devices with USB connections.

No solution exists yet. Just a few days ago, for example, we tested a brand-new Dell Core Duo notebook that confirmed that using USB devices still imposes a dramatic penalty on battery life.

This bug, of course, does not serve as a motivating factor to invest in this new technology. The situation is also frustrating for notebook vendors, because they can't solve this problem on their own, but must wait for active support from Microsoft and, where possible, Intel, to deal with the issue.

This problem shouldn't detract from the excellent work that Intel's engineers have delivered, however. As you'll see in the review that follows, the new dual-core platform has much to offer. In the meantime, we can only hope Microsoft and Intel will soon create a USB solution that is workable for end-users and notebook vendors alike.

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