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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Longer life looms for laptops
Transmeta is a cool chip
An infrared image of a Transmeta chip
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

By the end of the year, you will be able to buy a Windows-operated laptop that runs for eight hours before the battery is drained.

On Tuesday, at the PC Expo in New York, chip company Transmeta showed off four laptops built around its power-efficient Crusoe processor.

The announcement shows that competition for chips powering mobile devices is hotting up.

Last week, chip giant Intel revealed low-power versions of some of its processors that will also mean laptop computers lasting longer before needing a recharge.

Intel showed off five chips built for mobile machines, all of which it claims consume less than one watt of power. The same chips in desktop machines consume more than three times as much power.

Intel has made the chips consume less power largely by slowing them down when the laptop is using its battery.

In contrast, the Crusoe chip does not run at one speed all the time. Instead, it decelerates when it does not have much work to do.

Chip chopped

The chip's control software speeds it up or slows it down in 33 MHz steps to match the processing load it has to cope with.

The speed of the chip never falls below 300 MHz because it gets little extra battery life by going so slow.

Crusoe chip
Crusoe can help laptops live longer on the road
The Crusoe chip also has 75% fewer power-hungry transistors on board than an equivalent Pentium.

As expected, IBM was one of the first to unveil a prototype laptop built to run Windows that had the Crusoe chip inside.

The machine, which will form part of IBM's popular Thinkpad range, will be available by the end of the year.

IBM manufactures the Crusoe chip under contract for Transmeta.

Also on display at PC Expo were laptops from three other computer makers - Fujitsu, Hitachi and NEC.

Transmeta has strong links with the open source community, as Linux creator Linus Torvalds was on the Crusoe development team. But the laptops shown off are designed to run Windows.

The boost in laptop battery life will no doubt be welcomed, but the existing Psion Series 7 computers already last 8.5 hours between recharges and their smaller cousin, the Psion Revo, can last 14 hours.

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See also:

20 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
Crusoe chip - the verdict
19 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
New chip is fast mover
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