Centrino Duo Explained
Before we get ahead of ourselves throwing hardware around, let's review exactly what the "Centrino Duo" is and what it brings to the proverbial table.
The name "Centrino" does not describe a physical thing like the name "Pentium" does. Rather, Centrino is a "platform", which is a set of interrelated technologies. The Centrino platform consists of three parts; a processor, chipset and wireless networking solution. A device can only be referred to as a Centrino solution when it contains all three of these components. However, Intel specifically defines what these three parts are so don't go slapping Centrino stickers on your laptops just yet.
The third generation of Centrino platforms, code named Napa during development, was introduced in January of this year. This generation includes the Centrino Duo. The platform consists of:
- An Intel Core Solo or Core Duo processor (code named Yonah)
- A chipset from the Mobile Intel 945 Express chipset family (code named Calistoga)
- An Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG mini-PCIe WiFi adapter (code named Golan)
When these three technologies come together in a laptop, the result is a third generation Intel Centrino platform. If the Core Duo processor is used instead of the Core Solo, you've got yourself a Centrino Duo. However, when the Core Solo processor is used, it is not referred to as a Centrino Solo. It's simply called a Centrino. If either the chipset, wireless adapter or both are missing, than it's labeled "Core Duo Inside" or "Core Solo Inside" depending on the processor.
Previous Centrino generations followed the same basic guidelines; consisting of a specific model of processor, chipset and wireless solution.
A tad bit confusing? Yes. We thought so too, and it's about to get worse. On July 27th, Intel released the successor to the Core Duo processor, code-named Merom. Merom is based on Intel's Core 2 architecture and the first version of Merom will be compatible with the current Core Duo platform. You'll be able to drop a Merom into your Core Duo compatible motherboard and it will work, requiring at most a BIOS update. Intel is expected to allow the Centrino Duo platform to include systems with Merom in the processor socket instead of the Core Duo. So how will we be able to tell a Centrino Duo system running a Core Duo processor from one with the Merom (short of peeking under the hood) since they will both be using the 'Centrino Duo' moniker? We're sure Intel will figure something out.
Luckily, this confusion will not be aggravated by the second version of Merom, which will be part of the fourth generation of Centrino platforms, code named Santa Rosa, which is expected to launch in April 2007.
At the heart of the Centrino Duo platform, and part of its namesake, is the Core Duo processor. As the name suggests, the Core Duo is a dual core processor and it's based on the Banias/Dothan Pentium M microarchitecture. It has 2 MB of L2 cache that is shared by both cores. The Core Duo is part of Intel's first generation of processors built on their new 65 nanometer process. The new process allows the Core Duo to be more energy efficient and it only draws around 25W of juice, despite having two cores. Unfortunately the Core Duo/Solo do not have EM64T support although Merom will.
The second half of the Core processor family is the Core Solo. Core Solo is actually a Core Duo with one of the cores disabled. Physically, it still has two cores but only one is operational. This allows Intel to save costs because they do not need to produce a single core design and it also allows Intel to utilize processors that fail quality control because one of the cores is defective. These defective processors can be modified and re-branded as Core Solos.