Intel formally announced its 'Merom' chip for notebooks Monday, as vendors including Dell's Alienware, Gateway and Toshiba announced new models built around the processor.

Intel will use the chip to upgrade its keystone Centrino package of power-efficient, wireless-enabled technologies for laptop PCs, a bundle that combines the main central processing unit (CPU) with a mobile chipset and wireless card.

Merom is the third launch in recent months from Intel's new line of dual-core, 65-nanometer process chips built with the Core 2 Duo architecture. The company launched its 'Woodcrest' Xeon 5100 chip for servers in June and its 'Conroe' Core 2 Duo chip for desktops in July.

A laptop running the Core 2 Duo chip instead of Pentium M will offer twice the CPU performance while drawing 28 per cent less electricity from the battery, said Dadi Perlmutter, senior vice president of Intel's Mobility Group.

Intel hopes the new Merom chip family will help stem its leak of market share to rival Advanced Micro Devices and AMD's dual-core Turion 64 X2 processor.

In worldwide sales of notebook processors, Intel has watched its market share drop from 87.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2005 to 86.0 per cent in the first quarter of 2006, according to Gartner. The fall has been steeper in the US, where Intel tumbled from 81 per cent share during the month of June 2005 to 66 per cent in June 2006, according to Current Analysis.

Since Intel began shipping the new Core 2 Duo chip to vendors last month, computer makers have come up with 200 notebook designs that specify the chip, including its placement in Intel's Viiv bundle for entertainment PCs.

Indeed, the Core 2 Duo chip will offer users improved multitasking power, media capabilities and battery life, said Alienware, who will use the chip in three of its high-end gaming and media notebooks.

Alienware will use Core 2 Duo chips in the 17-inch Area-51 m5750, 15.4-inch Area-51 m5550 and 14.1-inch Sentia m3450.

Gateway will begin selling notebooks with Core 2 Duo chips on August 31, saying the new chip will speed data processing and overall efficiency for mobile business customers.

Gateway will use the chip in its M255-E, M285-E, M465-E and M685-E professional series notebooks, as well as its NX260X, NX560, NX860X and CX210X consumer direct models.

Likewise, Toshiba announced it would use the new chip in its Qosmio G35-AV660, a multimedia notebook PC with an HD DVD-ROM drive and two 120GB hard drives for storing TV programs and music files. Adding the powerful new chip to the high-end features in this audio-video notebook model will boost processing performance for HD DVD playback as well as music, gaming, TV, video editing and PC multitasking, said Jeff Barney, vice president of marketing for Toshiba's Digital Products division.

Dell will use Intel's new 'Merom' Core 2 Duo chip in its XPS notebook PCs (pictured below).

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Despite that heavy computing load, the Core 2 Duo is still Intel

That power efficiency capability could be reassuring to customers made nervous by recent reports of notebooks overheating and catching fire.

In the past month, Dell and Apple have recalled a total of 5.9 million defective notebook batteries manufactured by Sony Energy Devices, with Apple advising users to plug their notebooks into AC outlets while they wait four to six weeks for replacements to arrive in the mail.