Intel has finally launched its Santa Rosa platform and it simply got christened Centrino Duo and Centrino Pro. The Duo version is for consumer and general purpose notebooks while the Pro is targeting professional users, i.e. office machines. Although this was fairly apparent considering that the vPro platform was targeting business as well, so this is a natural continuity for Intel to follow. All the machines shown by MSI are Centrino Duo models, but the only real difference would be the choice of ICH as the Centrino Pro platform features some advanced remote system administration features that are not included in the consumer platform.
It has taken longer than expected for the Santa Rosa platform to emerge from Intel and one of the telltale signs is the chipset names. On the desktop platform we are getting ready for the P35/G35/G33 chipsets, while the new Centrino Duo platform only gets a PM965 and a GM965 chipset. However, we do not think anyone will miss the 945 mobile parts, as the new 965 chipset offers a range of new features that brings the notebook one step closer to replacing the desktop.
For the performance junkies out there, the most significant improvement is the 800MHz bus speed, up from 667MHz of the 945 chipset. This is a significant increase, although it is budget level compared to a desktop PC, especially if you consider that we are about to move into 1,333MHz territory very soon. Nonetheless, this should allow for even better performance from notebooks, especially in combination with faster 667MHz DDR2 memory modules.
Robson technology or Turbo Memory is also part of the new Centrino Duo platform, although as this is still rather expensive, it is unlikely that most notebooks will ship with a Turbo Memory module fitted. It will also be interesting to see what impact Turbo Memory has on overall system performance, as ReadyBoost did not prove to be a huge hit. Other news includes support for draft 802.11n wireless networking, again something that only higher-end models are likely to ship with. SATA 3Gb/s is part of the new ICH and this should allow for somewhat improved performance. Intel has also added support for Intel Matrix RAID, which is interesting, so we might see a lot more notebooks with twin hard drives in the near future.
On the integrated graphics side of things, a new GMA has been developed, the X3100, which according to Intel offers twice the performance in 3DMark06. It also adds Vista Premium certification, HDMI support and better video playback performance for high-definition content. At the same time as Intel launched the new Centrino platform, Nvidia also announced its GeForce 8M series of graphics cards, which are mobile versions of the 8400 and 8600 series. These are already available in several Centrino Duo models from MSI as well as other manufacturers and this is the route to go down it you really intend to play games on your notebook. So let us take a look at what was on at the show.