IBM ThinkPad X31 1.4GHz Pentium M: A Traveler's Best Friendby Matthew Witheiler on April 11, 2003 5:59 PM EST
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One of the primary purposes of Intel's Pentium-M mobile processor and Centrino technology was to breath new life into thin and light and ultraportable notebooks. While desktop replacement notebooks could turn to the high powered Pentium 4-M processor and Intel 845MP chipset, thin and light and ultraportable solutions were left with older, slower hardware at the helm. System designers had two options available when producing a notebook with a manageable size. They could either turn to the low voltage Pentium III-M chip, which proved to be fairly speedy but not very forgiving on the power side of things, or they could turn to the Transmeta Crusoe processor which proved to use very little power but at the sacrifice of speed. The Pentium-M mobile processor combines the best of both of these processors resulting in a power conscious chip that has plenty of performance.
For this reason the Pentium-M processor feels right at home in thin and light and ultraportable notebooks. Forced into systems with little room for cooling and a rather small battery, processors in these types of systems require a unique set of characteristics. Since the Pentium-M processor met these requirements and even exceeded them by providing impressive performance, notebook enthusiasts hoped that the new processor would find its way into a new breed of systems. And they did. We saw that in our Centrino based notebook roundup but one type of system was eerily missing from our initial roundup. Three of the four notebooks we examined could be classified as thin and lights and one that lied in the gray area between the thin and light and desktop replacement class notebooks. The missing class of notebooks that Centrino technology was targeted at: the ultraportable market.
It is not that there are not Centrino based ultraportable notebooks on the market, it is just that they are typically a bit slower to come to market than thin and light solutions. The reason for this is two fold. First off, designing and producing an ultraportable system is even more difficult than the already complicated process of making thin and light and desktop replacement class notebooks. In ultraportable notebooks space is at an even greater premium making layout and cooling solutions all the more difficult. The second reason that ultraportable Pentium-M systems are just now slowly coming out is because North American adoption of the ultraportable form factor has been fairly slow. Comparing the North American market for ultraportable notebooks to the Asian market in terms of units sold shows that ultraportable systems are much more accepted in Asia. Thus, North American notebook venders are a bit more cautious when releasing ultraportable models here in America, even though we personally find them to be among the most useful notebooks on the market.
Today we take a look at a style of notebook that many people hoped the Pentium-M processor would bring to market, a sub 4 pound ultraportable notebook. It is called the IBM X31 and indicates a direction that ultraportable notebooks are finally able to venture into thanks to Centrino technology; high performance, ultraportable, mobile computing with long battery life.