In a series of events at Computex today, Intel officially unveiled its fourth-generation Core processors. The company said its latest chip is the foundation of a new breed of 2-in-1 devices up to “aspirational” premium Ultrabook convertibles. At the same time Intel said its upcoming Silvermont Atom processors--originally designed for smartphones and tablets--would be extended into entry-level notebooks, convertibles and all-in-one desktops starting as low as $400.
Intel Executive Vice President Tom Kilroy said in his opening keynote that the PC of the past is dying. “The 2-in-1 is the new norm,” he said. “It is a laptop when you need it. It is a tablet when you want it.” Intel said there are more than 50 different 2-in-1 designs in the works based on either the fourth-generation Core (Haswell) or Silvermont processors.
Kilroy described Haswell as the industry’s first PC System-on-Chip (SoC) and the company’s first designed from the start for Ultrabooks and 2-in-1s. It delivers the largest generational improvement in battery life in Intel’s history with 50 percent better battery life under active workloads and up to 13 days of standby time compared with four days with the current Ivy Bridge processors. The new graphics, branded Iris, deliver twice the performance of Ivy Bridge pushing it to the same level as discrete graphics, he said.
Like most mainstream chips, the Haswell mobile processors were originally designed with a 35-watt power rating, but Kilroy said the engineers “ripped up the roadmap” and cut the power down to as little as 6 watts on some versions (keep in mind though that Intel now uses a different method to measure power for these low-voltage parts). Kilroy showed some early 2-in-1 designs from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Panasonic and Toshiba and he held up an extremely thin, fanless slate to illustrate what was possible with a 6-watt Core processor. With these, Kilroy said, you’ll no longer need to choose between a PC (high performance, multi-tasking, productivity, PC applications) and a tablet (simple touch interface, light weight and thin design, long battery life, and apps ecosystem).
While this sounds compelling, don’t expect to see these sorts of Haswell 2-in-1s until sometime around September or October. That’s because the fourth-generation Core processors announced today are mostly quad-cores with higher power ratings designed for standard desktops and mainstream laptops. Today’s lineup includes:
Kilroy said that Intel has “busted the x86 power myth” and is starting to gain traction in smartphones and especially in tablets. He said there are dozens of Intel-based tablets in the market now, and noted several new announcements at Computex including the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, Acer Iconia W3 and Asus Fonepad Note. Silvermont will deliver either a 3x increase in performance or a 5x reduction in power. The Bay Trail-T platform will ship later this year with the first Android and Windows 8 tablets appearing in time of the holidays while the first Merrifield smartphones will arrive at Mobile World Congress in early 2014.
Intel demonstrated a Bay Trail-T tablet playing a PC game (Runic Games’ Torchlight II, a role-playing game) and playing a 4K video streaming over 4G LTE on a test network using the company’s own multimode LTE baseband. He later said that the XMM 7160 LTE baseband would be coming to market this year. Intel will also release Bay Trail-M and Bay Trail-D platforms to push down prices of laptops and all-in-one desktops, respectively.
In a separate event, Kirk Skaugen, a senior vice president and General Manager of the PC Client Group, gave more details on some of the 2-in-1 devices coming to market and described some of the user experiences they will enable. He said that there are “hundreds” of Haswell systems launching starting today with Ultrabooks coming in a few months and vPro Ultrabooks for business users arriving by the end of the year.
The number of 2-in-1 designs available will increase 10x by the holidays and the number of laptops with touchscreens has increased three times from Ivy Bridge to Haswell. “Touch is going to go broad on Haswell,” Skaugen said. “Almost every design in the notebook category is going to have the capability of touch.” Laptops with touchscreens are already available for as low as $529.
Intel showed several 2-in-1 models including an Acer convertible, Dell XPS 11 tablet and XPS 12 convertible, Lenovo’s next-generation Yoga, Panasonic Let’s Note hybrid, a Sony VAIO Duo and a Toshiba Portege convertible. HP is likely to ship the first fanless Haswell design later this year. Skaugen talked about how Haswell is Intel’s most scalable architecture ranging from these 6-watt fanless designs all the way to a single Core i7 chip with Iris Pro graphics capable of 1 teraflop. He showed an MSI Ultrabook capable of a teraflop (300 gigaflops from the CPU and 700 gigaflops from the graphics) in a thin and light package. In general the new Iris graphics deliver good enough performance to go after 80 percent of the discrete graphics market, Skaugen said, while using less board area and power.
Skaugen then shifted to what you can do with this hardware. Aside from touch, Intel demonstrated high-resolution displays like the qHD display (2560x1440) on Dell’s XPS 11, the use of an active stylus on the Sony VAIO Duo, a new secure payment technology using NFC, a 720p videoconferencing system for China’s Tencent, Intel’s WiDi wireless display technology, voice and face recognition and gesture control.
WiDi receivers are in 10 million TVs today and Intel announced a deal with Samsung to double that later this year. Intel is also hoping to double the number of laptops with WiDi from 40 million today. Intel very briefly demonstrated a facial recognition feature, the oddly-named Sensible Vision Facial Login Solution, which was surprisingly fast. It will be available on Asus and Sony laptops.
The Nuance Dragon Assist voice command and control software, which is currently in beta and available for Dell PCs, will also be available on Acer, Asus and Lenovo PCs—a total of 10 systems--and will be sold through Best Buy in time for Back to School. The software will be available in nine languages in 27 countries by the end of the year and Intel is requiring dual-array microphones on Haswell Ultrabooks to ensure it works well in noisy environments.
Last year at its annual developer forum Intel announced the Perceptual Computing SDK (Software Developer’s Kit) for gesture recognition, which included a Creative 3-D depth camera. The Creative Senz3D camera will be available in the third quarter along with a free Perceptual Pack for Portal 2 allowing users to control the popular game with gestures. Skaugen also announced a $100 million Experiences & Perceptual Computing Fund to jumpstart the development of gesture-controlled software. But the big surprise was that Intel has been quietly working on its own 3-D camera technology, which it plans to start integrating into even thin Ultrabooks. Dell and Lenovo have already committed to using it in some systems starting in in late 2014, he said. HP recently announced a deal with Leap Motion to integrate its competing motion controller into some systems.
Skaugen noted that there are more than 500 million PCs out there that are at least four years old. All of this work to reinvent the PC and establish a 2-in-1 category is designed to convince those uses that it’s time to upgrade.