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What the fsck is Centrino™?

Centrino isn't a processor. It isn't a chipset or a type of wireless adaptor either. There's no such thing as a Centrino driver, for example. So what is it?

Well, it's a subset of Intel's product line that is geared towards battery-powered, wireless computers, which in most cases equates to a laptop. There are three primary components to a Centrino system: the processor, the system chipset and the wireless adaptor. The idea is to produce an energy-efficient, mobile-biased platform without compromising too much on portability.


Centrino-class processors comprise of the Intel Pentium M series - namely a modified Pentium 4 processor (Dothan / Sonoma) designed to (A) reduce power consumption at full load (Dothan consumes a maximum of around 25 watts compared to the 100 watts a desktop-class Pentium 4 3.4GHz Hyper-Threading processor uses), and (B) provide the ability to both underclock and undervolt the core, hence reducing idle or low-load power consumption to around 6 watts. For example, if you're just bashing away at a word processor, it is pointless to run the processor at full clock when it's 95% idle. Under these circumstances, the processor can be underclocked as low as 600MHz, hence reducing power consumption by over 75%.


Intel also have system chipsets designed along a similar theory, in this case the i855 and i915. Both chipsets can switch parts of themselves off or into sleep mode depending on the loads placed upon the system. The i915 brings many enhancements over the i855 including a 533MHz front-side bus, dual channel DDR-2 memory, Intel high definition 7.1 audio and a shared-memory graphics controller that performs similarly to a Radeon 9600.

WiFi card

Intel has three Centrino-style Mini-PCI network cards:
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 2100 (802.11b)
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 2200 (802.11b/g)
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 2915 (802.11a/b/g dual-band)

All three provide the standard gamut of features (including RF monitor mode under Linux!) and allow various power-saving attributes, like the ability to put a lot of the radio circuitry to sleep after a couple of seconds of inactivity.


So, in short, a Centrino platform comprises of a Pentium M processor (Dothan or Sonoma), a mobile chipset (either the i855 or i915) and one of the PRO/Wireless cards.

See? Easy. :-)

This page was last updated: 31st December 2005 at 2:33am GMT
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