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The uptake of Intel’s Centrino mobile technology is gaining pace. You only have to look at the increasing number of Centrino-based notebooks arriving through our doors to realise that. It’s clear why too, as notebook manufacturers had been waiting for a mobile solution like this for some time.
A couple of years back I developed a small battery rundown script and remember being highly impressed when a notebook could keep that going for a couple of hours. With Centrino I have seen battery life extended up to five hours and more, so working on the go is now becoming a practical reality.
Quick to jump on the Centrino bandwagon is Rock, which here has submitted one of its latest notebooks named after the mythological winged horse. As you would expect, the CTS features a Pentium-M processor, in this case running at 1.6GHz. Of course, with Intel’s Enhanced SpeedStep technology this can vary from 600Mhz right up to the full 1.6GHz in multiple steps depending on the power scheme you have selected in Windows XP and whether or not you have the mains plugged in. This is done by dynamically switching the core voltage and bus frequency depending on CPU demand, and results in lower power consumption.
That said, in tests using MobileMark 2002 we found the CTS to be a little more power hungry than other Centrino notebooks we’ve seen. A glance at the results shows a battery life of just over three hours with the Windows power scheme set for a portable/laptop. Battery life was only 14 minutes better when I repeated the test with both the 802.11b wireless antenna and built-in webcam deactivated from within the BIOS. I’ll come to the webcam later, but considering that Rock quotes a battery life of 4.5 hours I was a little disappointed that I could not manage a similar result. You can get a 12-cell battery option for an extra £175.08 but this is not provided as standard and, unfortunately, I was unable to test this. However Rock claims up to eight hours of usage with this battery.
Moving on to the rest of the spec, inside is a board sporting Intel’s 855GM chipset. This comes complete with onboard graphics in the shape of Intel’s Extreme Graphics 2 chip, which dynamically grabs anything from 8MB to 64MB from the 512MB of DDR system memory in order to process graphical data. Although this offers a tidy and more economical setup, the offshoot is weaker 3D performance especially when compared to a dedicated graphics processor. A 3DMark 2001 score of 1,893 is a testament to this, but is nonetheless a typical result for a Centrino-based machine with integrated graphics. It’s also worth noting that the CTS is not designed for intensive gaming, but rather for working on spreadsheets and other office applications. To this effect, Rock includes a copy of Ability Office, although whether you will find this useful is debatable.
As for 2D performance, I wasn’t that amazed. The overall SYSmark 2002 score was down on the disclosed result put in by the Acer TravelMate 661LMi, and that utilised a 1.4GHz processor. However, a respectable score for SYSmarks’ Internet Content Creation test was achieved. For PCmark 2002, the results were good, but you have to bear in mind that this is based on theoretical tests rather than real world applications as in SYSmark.