Why you need a new Centrino 2 laptop

Echo Peak follows

A bigger problem is that Echo Peak won't be available from the launch of Centrino 2: it's set to follow in a few months. In the meantime – and in the longer run for those who don't need WiMAX hardware at all, Intel's new "Shirley Peak" chips will supply 802.11a/b/draft-n, with the pre-release marketing unsurprisingly claiming record speed and range.

Centrino 2 will also come with Blu-ray support. Plenty of laptops sport Blu-ray drives, but Intel claims that its new X4500 will reduce the load on the CPU when playing back high-definition video. In theory, this will mean better overall system performance when watching films, and longer battery times when watching HD films.

In concert with the new 25W processors, Centrino 2 is shaping up to be the technology of choice for roving Blu-ray aficionados. Besides supporting DirectX 10, the X4500 has support for DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort. Intel claims the new chip is three times faster than the outgoing GMA3100, and while that doesn't mean you'll be playing Crysis at its most beautiful on an ultra-portable, there will be thousands of games already available which will run.

Coming soon...

So where can you get one? It's early days for Centrino 2, and the most fully-featured systems – laptops with DisplayPort, WiMAX, DDR3 RAM and quad-core processors are still some way off. But early adopters will be nonetheless spoiled for choice. HP has already announced the Centrino 2 EliteBook, and Sony will announce its first Centrino 2 range tonight. It's fair to expect every major notebook OEM to have Centrino 2 products before long – we'll cover them as they become available.

AMD has been quiet in the notebook stakes – Intel's Core 2 offerings have been extremely strong, but it may be hoping that Intel's Centrino 2 delays will be the forebears of bigger problems. AMD's offering is Puma, a Centrino-like collection of technologies.

Its Turion processors offer similar TDPs to Penryn chips, such as the ZM-86, which has a clock speed of 2.4GHz and a TDP of 35W. AMD's great strength over Intel – potentially, at least – is the graphical know-how it acquired when it bought AMD in 2006. Its problem is that Intel's Centrino brand is a modern-day colossus, and Intel's 45nm, 25W CPUs retain the technical edge.

So should you rush out now, credit card in hand? If you're after what many would consider the most important improvements in mobile computing – those of mobile performance and battery life – Intel should be of to a flying start with its processor releases. If you're after the bonuses – such as HD playback and WiMAX capabilities – a wait of a few months will give us a much clearer picture.

Dave is a professional photographer whose work has appeared everywhere from National Geographic to the Guardian. Along the way he’s been commissioned to shoot zoo animals, luxury tech, the occasional car, countless headshots and the Northern Lights. As a videographer he’s filmed gorillas, talking heads, corporate events and the occasional penguin. He loves a good gadget but his favourite bit of kit (at the moment) is a Canon EOS T80 35mm film camera he picked up on eBay for £18.