Intel to push Broadwell into fanless tablets thinner than iPad

Intel shares details on its Core M processors, which will go into tablets and hybrids by year end

Intel Broadwell chip

Intel Broadwell chip

Laptops and tablets should get longer battery life and better performance with Intel's fifth-generation Core chip family, code-named Broadwell, due to go into devices by the end of the year.

Intel on Monday broke months of silence surrounding Broadwell, which will succeed Haswell, the code name for the popular fourth-generation Core i3, i5 and i7 processors.

Tablets and tablet-PC hybrids based on the first Broadwell chip, called Core M, will be available by the end of the year. Mainstream laptops and desktops with Broadwell chips will be available starting early next year.

For those who are waiting to upgrade PCs, Broadwell -- which had been delayed -- could be worth the wait.

While raising performance to beat Haswell chips, Intel has managed to reduce the heat generated by Broadwell, allowing it to go into fanless tablets that are less than 9 millimeters thick. The reduction also helps lower the power drawn by chips and results in better battery life, said Rani Borkar, vice president of the platform engineering group at Intel, during a press event at the company's campus in Santa Clara, California.

Broadwell offers better graphics performance by using a next-generation graphics core, and also is designed for "voice usages," Borkar said.

"You will get better battery life. We have not compromised on performance or battery life," Borkar said.

Since the Core chips released in 2010, the company has managed to double the battery life, improve graphics seven times and more than double the performance, Borkar said.

The Broadwell chip itself is 50 percent smaller and 30 percent thinner than the Haswell chip package, Borkar said. Smaller chips help make devices thinner and more power efficient.

Borkar showed a prototype tablet called Llama Mountain, which has a 12.5-inch screen and is 7.2 millimeters thick. Versions of the tablet -- which is thinner and lighter than the iPad -- with Windows 8 and Android were also shown at the Computex trade show in June.

Asustek will use Core M in the upcoming Transformer Book Chi T300, a 12.5-inch detachable hybrid that is 7.3 millimeters thick when used as a tablet. More products are expected to be announced at the IFA trade show in September.

The company did not provide specifics about processors belonging to the Core M line, which are code-named Broadwell Y. However, the Core M chip in Llama Mountain draws about 5 watts of power. Haswell chips draw 10 watts and more.

More details will be spilled next month at the Intel Developer Forum trade show.

Broadwell is the first chip made using the first generation of the 14-nanometer manufacturing process. The 14-nanometer process uses second-generation FinFET technology, in which transistors are stacked in 3D format, much like cubes. However, Intel has had trouble ramping up manufacturing on the 14-nm process, which resulted in Broadwell being delayed. Characterized as Intel's first major product delay since Pentium 4 in 2000, Broadwell was a rare misstep for a company that takes pride in its manufacturing capabilities.

Intel has stacked more transistors in 14-nm chips than in earlier chips, which has helped improve performance while reducing power draw.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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