When a group of Chinese customers complained in June that their recently purchased Dell laptops did not ship with the right processor, they vented their displeasure publicly and began plans to bring a lawsuit against the company.

The Dell customers thought they were buying laptops with Intel Core Duo T2300 processors, but ended up with machines based on the Core Duo T2300E instead. After discovering they had received systems with a less capable chip, a group of users threatened to bring legal action against Dell, accusing the company of false advertising.

The T2300 and T2300E processors are identical in many respects, but there are important differences. Both chips are produced using a 65nm (nanometre) process, have 2MB of cache, run at a clock speed of 1.66GHz, use a 667MHz front-side bus and consume up to 31W of power. But the T2300E doesn't support Intel's Virtualisation Technology, which allows users to run multiple OSes (operating systems) and applications in independent partitions.

The T2300E also costs less, priced at $209 (about £111) compared with $241 (£128) for the T2300, Intel said on its website. Both prices are for 1,000-unit quantities, a standard method of pricing processors.

In early July, Dell apologised to the users and offered a full rebate for unsatisfied customers who returned their laptops, blaming the processor mixup on a failure to update its marketing materials. At the same time, Dell said Virtualisation Technology was generally intended for workstation and server users, not laptop users.

The T2300E offers better value for users who do not need the Virtualisation Technology, said Francis Kam, director of China customer sales support at Dell, in a recent post on the company's Direct2Dell blog. "Many customers have accepted our apology, some have accepted our refund offer. We are still working it out with others."

While many users may not take advantage of Virtualisation Technology on their PCs, the technology can be useful. Virtualisation Technology allows home users to create independent partitions for different users and functions, helping to protect the computer against viruses and malware, Intel said on its website.