Intel to launch new processors for ultrathin laptops

Intel's new chips for low-cost ultrathin laptops will be available under the Core i3 and Core i5 brands

Intel will soon release new low-power processors for a class of thin and light laptops that bridge the gap between netbooks and mainstream laptops, a company spokeswoman confirmed on Friday.

The new processors will be available under Intel's Core i3 and Core i5 brands and will power laptops that are as portable as netbooks but have larger screens and greater functionality. Called ultrathin laptops, these PCs are usually priced between US$400 and $800 and provide performance that is adequate to run standard applications and high-definition multimedia.

An Intel road map presented during a webcast on Thursday showed that the chips will be less powerful than the standard-voltage Core i3 and Core i5 laptop processors, which are priced between $133 and $294, according to an Intel price list. However, the new processors will be faster than Intel's Atom chips, which go into netbooks.

The road map also showed that the chips are due for release this quarter. The Intel spokeswoman declined comment on further chip details such as release date, performance and pricing. However, ultrathin processors are generally cheaper than mainstream laptop chips.

The new processors will reach laptops in the second half of the year, said Stephen Smith, vice president and director of PC client operations and enabling at Intel, during a webcast speech.

The chips will be made using the latest 32-nanometer manufacturing process, Smith said. The processors could provide a significant performance and power-savings boost over the first ultrathin chips introduced last year by Intel under the Core and Pentium brands. Intel's Core i3 and Core i5 processors integrate the CPU and graphics processor inside a single chip package, which could improve graphics performance while drawing less power. The chips are also capable of running two threads per one core, which could improve application performance.

The ultrathin laptop category first emerged when AMD introduced its Athlon Neo processors in January last year. Intel followed suit, releasing new ultrathin chips a few months later. The laptops were expected to fill a power and performance gap between netbooks and mainstream laptops, but adoption rates were slow.

However, research firm iSuppli said in a statement on Thursday that shipments of ultrathin laptops will pick up this year. iSuppli estimated that ultrathin shipments to total 14.5 million, a 93 percent increase from the 7.5 million ultrathin laptops that shipped last year. iSuppli estimated total laptop shipments to be 209.5 million units this year, a 25.5 percent year-over-year growth.

Acer was the top ultrathin laptop maker last year, shipping 5 million units, followed by Asustek, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Sony. Apple hasn't yet adopted ultrathin processors for its laptops.

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