Is Centrino The Right Choice?

There has been some discussion at Techdirt as to whether Intel dropped the ball by putting 802.11b radios into their laptops instead of the soon-to-be-ratified “g” standard. While I am a fan of “g” (in fact, I co-authored chip-maker Broadcom’s white paper on the subject), I don’t think Intel dropped the ball. “G” is still not truly a standard, and “b” still has legs, and is the protocol of choice for 99% of public hotspots. A very small minority of users will ever tap the bandwidth of 54Mbps “g”. When users move big files during backup, they plug in for wired speed like gig ethernet. A recent paper at IEEE Spectrum now looks at Centrino, and dissects the architecture of the multi-chip solution. It turns out that the best parts of Centrino are just where Intel’s expertise lie: the Pentium M processor and the motherboard 855 chipset. These use far less power than previous configurations, and offer more processing horsepower than their clock cycle ratings imply. For example, a 1.4GHz Pentium M has about the same kick as a 1.8GHz Pentium 4 M. As for the wireless, the article criticizes Intel’s configuration as half baked. Now I’m going to add my conspiracy theory: I think the Intel Pro/Wireless 2100 wireless card that is part of the Centrino configuration is deeply flawed. I have been to community sites, Dell support, Toshiba support, epinions, and in many cases customers are having problems with the Centrino wireless connections being unreliable. This is a first generation product, and I believe Intel and OEMs are working out the bugs. The first time we will see an admission of the problems will likely be when fixes are announced. Is this personal? Sure, I bought two Toshiba Tecra M1s at over $5k, and have had nothing but WiFi headaches ever since. They are erratic, intermittent, and unreliable. This is from a guy who has been using WiFi since he first connected in Singapore’s Changi Airport in September 2000. My advice is, grab the Pentium M processor and 855 chipset, but excercise your option to select built-in wireless from a more experienced WiFi chip maker.

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Comments on “Is Centrino The Right Choice?”

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Brett Glass says:

Major Centrino incompatibilities

To this day, the Centrino chipsets are not compatible with Wi-Fi access points using the Intersil Prism chipsets. Since this chipset was once extremely popular, there are literally millions of access points to which a Centrino just will not connect! I and others have tried to notify Intel of this, but their “support” staff refuses to listen. (Who knows? Maybe the incompatibility was an intentional move to try to harm a competitor.) In any event, I cannot recommend Centrino-based products to anyone. Intel, fix your bugs!

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