Fast, powerful processors cause all sorts of heating problems -- which leads to a noisy environment when you use fans to cool them down. Portable CPUs must run cooler than desktop CPUs, because they don't have the room for a strong, loud fan. What happens when a company redesigns a portable CPU to work on the desktop? DMOS explores the answer to that question as he examines the Pentium M.
So let's say you are looking to build a home theatre PC. Or you work in an office where if someone gets on the phone, they get the stare of death from coworkers. Or you just want your computer to be an electronic device, without sounding like a jet or rice rocket complete with coffee can exhaust (I debate which is louder). This is how computers once were, back in my youth. Of course, I quickly changed that when I started to modify them for my needs, where they became louder and louder until I happened upon the joy of water cooling.
Even so, with some of the latest high performance CPUs the fans couldn't turn slowly in front of my radiator, they had to be at or near the full 12V. This was not exactly my idea of a peaceful working environment. So, off I went searching for the perfect solution. Today on DevHardware I'm going to talk about a key part of that, the Pentium-M.
Most people are by now aware of the "Centrino" mobile platform. After all, Intel has done a masterful job of associating "laptop" and Centrino, to the point where we might end up calling one by the name of the other, like tissue paper and Kleenex. If it doesn't have the little kite insignia, it somehow indicates a lesser product. As a result, Intel is really punching through big sales numbers of their i855 chipset, 802.11 wireless chip, and of course the Pentium-M processor. Because to gain the Centrino nomenclature, you have to possess all three in your design. The real jewel though is the Pentium-M CPU itself.
This processor came to life in a somewhat different way than the vast majority of Intel's product line to this point. Normally, they take a desktop design, castrate it by reducing the bus speed a step, lowering the operating voltage, and adding in some kind of variable multiplier so that the chip can be clocked down when idle. This is all geared to fitting it into a space with much lower thermal capacity -- a laptop after all can't have a 400g piece of copper and aluminum as well as a 92mm fan sitting on the processor. After seeing what Transmeta was doing with their mobile devices though, Intel put together a team specifically to create a design for the portable market. Out of this came "Banias."
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