Mobile // Mobile Business
News
6/3/2014
02:12 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Intel Core M Chips: Tablet Turbocharge

Intel's Core M chips will make Windows tablets lighter and thinner than ever, while its "Devil's Canyon" chips bring the speed.

Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown
Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Whether you're a desktop power user or an on-the-go pro who wants the thinnest laptop available, Intel's new chips might be just what you've been waiting for. Built using a cutting-edge 14-nanometer fabrication process, the power-efficient Core M family will soon fuel a range of tablets and 2-in-1 PCs slimmer and lighter than any currently on the market. The Core K processors, meanwhile, are the first to offer a base frequency of 4.0 GHz on all four cores. Intel president Renee James unveiled the pair of processor lines during a keynote at the Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan.

The Core M line plays an important role in Intel's goal to be a bigger mobile player. The most popular tablets traditionally run on ARM chips, which have allowed for thinner designs and better battery life than Intel offerings. But Intel has fought back with not only improved versions of its mobile-oriented Atom line, but also the Core M, which boasts much of the Atom's mobile-friendliness but maintains PC-level performance.

[Will $199 Windows 8.1 tablets sway buyers? Read Toshiba Windows Tablets: Priced Right?]

The Core M line ushers in Intel's fifth-generation Broadwell processors. The new family, as mentioned, is built using a 14-nanometer process, which enables Intel to create smaller, more energy-efficient chips. The Haswell processors inside most today's new PCs and Windows hybrids rely on older 22-nanometer technology. Intel claims Core M devices will offer better performance even though the chips consume up to 45% less energy and generate up to 60% less heat. Intel declined, however, to estimate how much Core M might improve battery life.

The low-heat, energy-conscious design should allow manufacturers to produce fanless devices. Most of today's thinnest 2-in-1 PCs -- such as the Surface Pro 3, which was touted at its introduction as the thinnest, lightest Core-based device in history -- need to make room for a small fan.

Intel's Llama Mountain reference design
Intel's Llama Mountain reference design

Intel showed off the M processor with a prototype 2-in-1 tablet nicknamed Llama Mountain. At 7.2 mm thick, the device is thinner than an iPad Air but offers a much larger screen -- 12.5 inches. It weighs more than the iPad, but is still light at 1.5 pounds -- lighter, in fact, than the similarly sized Surface Pro 3.

As a reference design, Llama Mountain is intended to guide Intel's OEM partners and will not itself reach the market. Nevertheless, the Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi, also showcased at Computex, hews close to Intel's prototype. One of the first devices to use a Core M chip, it is only 7.3 mm thick in tablet mode, and only 14.3 mm thick when docked into its keyboard base -- thinner than a MacBook Air. The T300 Chi also boasts a 12.5-inch, 2560x1440-pixel screen. The Asus 2-in-1 and other Core M devices are expected to hit the market later this year.

The Asus Transfomer Book T300 Chi will use a fifth-generation Intel Core chip.
The Asus Transfomer Book T300 Chi will use a fifth-generation Intel Core chip.

But not all users value mobility and sleek, thin devices -- some simply want all the computing muscle they can get. For this second group, Intel introduced the Intel K line. A new version of Intel's Haswell processor family, the K chips will be available in both i5 and i7 options, and will deliver up to 4-GHz base speeds on all four cores. Today's Intel Core chips can reach this frequency only in bursts while in Turbo mode. Codenamed "Devil's Canyon," the K processors will begin shipping this month.

What do Uber, Bank of America, and Walgreens have to do with your mobile app strategy? Find out in the new Maximizing Mobility issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest.

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/4/2014 | 2:52:36 PM
Re: Nice names
Yeah, it's a little disappointing Intel wasn't ready to offer more detailed information about power consumption and battery life. But I think it's safe to say the chips will let OEMs go wild designing thin, light devices.

Apple got better battery life out of the fourth-generation chips than almost anybody, so I too am curious to know what they could do with Broadwell processors. Then again, there's been some online chatter than Apple might actually stick an A8 processor in its alleged fanless MacBook. Take that with an appropriate grain of salt, but it would be an interesting development.
Charlie Babcock
50%
50%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/4/2014 | 2:38:17 PM
Sleekness personified: Core M, Core K chips
These chips will be used in a next generation of sleek new products. Today's sleek and chic will start to look clunky.
Li Tan
50%
50%
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2014 | 3:44:07 AM
Re: Nice names
I am more interested in Apple and would like to see what Apple will do with the new chip. Another thing I would like to know that, how much energy it will consume? How long the battery will last? Did it have some improvements from energy consumption perspective?
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/3/2014 | 3:01:42 PM
Re: Nice names
Intel runs ads for "Intel tablets." Most of them don't even bother to talk about an operating system-- just the difference it makes to have "Intel inside." So they're trying to grab some consumer mindshare. Not sure how much traction they're gaining. That said, I think that even if the new chips don't grab attention, they'll enable new devices that do-- e.g. 12-15-inch hybrids and tablets that are thinner and lighter than virtually anything on the market, and that almost all have near-Retina screen density.Hopefully they're not all $700+. I could see the cheaper tablets remaining ARM and Atom.

Although I won't lie-- when I saw the new chips, I was less interested in, say, the Asus hybrid than in what Apple might do with these and the mythical 12-inch fanless MacBook Air that's been in the rumor mill for a while.
Lorna Garey
50%
50%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
6/3/2014 | 2:53:42 PM
Nice names
I must say, "Devil's Canyon" sure beats names like "Core M" and the like!

What percentage of tablet buyers do you think are even aware of the chip, mugh less make a selection based on that information? I'm betting it's a minority. Do you think Intel  plans to try and change that, to market its silicon as better than offerings from AMD and ARM?
InformationWeek Elite 100
InformationWeek Elite 100
Our data shows these innovators using digital technology in two key areas: providing better products and cutting costs. Almost half of them expect to introduce a new IT-led product this year, and 46% are using technology to make business processes more efficient.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek - September 2, 2014
Avoiding audits and vendor fines isn't enough. Take control of licensing to exact deeper software discounts and match purchasing to actual employee needs.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
In in-depth look at InformationWeek's top stories for the preceding week.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.