Funnily enough, hardware support for Blu-ray is also a key feature of AMD's competing Puma platform. As notebook designs based on the two platforms emerge in the coming months, we'll be looking extremely closely at the relative decode performance and whether the battery life claims stand up to scrutiny.

Better Centrino 2 wireless

The final piece of the Centrino 2 puzzle is improved wireless networking. The new WiFi Link 5000 card finally delivers full support for the latest 802.11n standard. In simple terms, that should mean better wireless range and more bandwidth.

Potentially much more exciting is the addition of optional WiMax support later this year (note that WiMax will initially be reserved for North American markets – Intel declined to put a date on a European roll out). Intel has been promising much from WiMax for a long time. The concept of combining the speed of WiFi with the longer range of cellular networks is certainly exciting.

But the pace of progress has been pretty pathetic to date. WiMax has yet to gain any significant traction in the market. Here's hoping the inevitable domination of Centrino 2 will help it hit critical mass.

In the meantime, Intel says Centrino 2 has already chalked up 240 notebook design wins from as many manufacturers as you care to mention. In that sense, it already looks like a roaring success.

Whether it really deserves the Centrino 2 branding is another matter. Hopefully we'll get to the bottom of that question as we get our hands on a wide range of Centrino 2 notebooks over the next month or so.

For now, however, we can't help suspecting Intel might have been better advised to reserve Centrino 2 for its upcoming Nehalem processor architecture.

With fancy new features like an integrated memory controller and graphics, it's arguably Intel's biggest shift in CPU design in a decade. It could appear in notebook PCs in less than a year.