What is a Centrino?
There is some confusion about what constitutes a Centrino® Laptop.
Centrino is the name which INTEL chose to use to certify laptops that integrated BOTH of Intel's latest Pentium M CPU (Central Processing Unit) chip and Intel's own 802.11b WiFi wireless adapter.
In other words, laptops can only be marketed, identified, or advertised as Centrino if and only if the laptop is running the Intel Pentium M power-saving processor (previously code named Banias) AND also has integrated Intel's own 802.11b WiFi adapter.
The Intel Pentium M chip has a number of models ranging in speed from 1.5 GHz to 2.26 Ghz. All of them have the Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology.
Some retailers have chosen to sell any laptop which has a mobile processor and Wireless Capability as a Centrino.
This is simply not true, a lot of the cheaper laptops being advertised as Centrino contain the much less powerful Intel Celeron M CPU which may have a speed as low as 1.2GHz and the Celeron M does not have the Intel SpeedStep® Technology.
Since the Intel Pentium M speeds are 1.5 Ghz to 2.26 Ghz if a retailer attempts to sell you a laptop with a CPU speed below 1.5GHz it will not be a Centrino and the CPU will almost certainly be the inferior Celeron. This is a common practice
More confusion surrounds the WiFi Technology.
When Intel introduced the Centrino it was not manufacturing a tri-band 802.11a/b/g WiFi adapter, so some manufacturers turned to an alternate vendor (mainly Broadcom) for the WiFi module, in order to provide users with the ability to connect to the higher speed 802.11a/g networks at speeds of up to 54Mps, and 801.11b WiFi networks (more common) at speeds of up to 12Mbps. Therefore, while these laptop did in fact include the latest Intel Power-saving Pentium M Mobile chip, they did not integrate the Intel brand 802.11b WiFi adapter. Therefore they could not be designated a Centrino laptop. They were often marketed as “Centrino Technology” rather than just the word Centrino.
Although they were strictly speaking not a Centrino you did get a more feature rich laptop (integrated 802.11a connectivity along with the 802.11b/g WiFi capability) with the exact same mobile processor as a Centrino designated model, and virtually the same power-saving features that all Pentium M labeled laptops achieve.
Intel now has the tri-band WiFi adaptor so this is no longer a concern with newer laptops.
What does this mean to you as a buyer?
A laptop sold as a Centrino is not necessarily a Centrino
If the laptop is new or relatively new it will almost certainly have 802.11b/g WiFi. The "a" version is rarely used now. So the WiFi issue should not be a problem
If it is a year or so old check first that it actually has integrated WiFi, and then that it has an have 802.11b/g capability.
The most important thing is the CPU.
Make sure that it is a Pentium M and not a Celeron M. If the speed is below 1.5GHz it is almost certainly the much cheaper Celeron
For more information on Centrino, visit Intel's web-site to learn more about it.
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