Intel releases first Core M processors for business-class convertible PCs

It's taken longer than expected, but Intel has finally officially released the first CPUs using its Broadwell architecture. The new processors enable the holy grail of mobile computing: full PC power in a completely fanless package.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

After more than a year of frustrating delays, Intel has finally unveiled its first CPUs using the new Broadwell architecture.

Broadwell, which succeeds the current Haswell family, uses a 14-nanometer manufacturing process that has given Intel’s engineers fits. The new CPU family was originally slated to debut in 2013, but was pushed back repeatedly after manufacturing problems.

Those issues, which affected production yields, have finally been ironed out, and the new products are finally ready to ship.

Today’s product announcements are just the first in what will eventually be a wave of CPUs using the Broadwell architecture. The Core M processors will be available in two versions: the 5Y10/5Y10a processors, running at up to 2.0 GHz, and the more powerful 5Y70, which tops out at 2.6 GHz clock speeds. Upgrades to the i3, i5, and i7 series and the U and H families will appear in 2015 (Intel isn't revealing specific dates).

Both of the Core M products are designed specifically for what Intel calls “business 2-in-1s,” which have been a bright spot in an otherwise bleak PC market.

The new chips use only 4.5 W of power, compared with 11.5 W for the current 4th-generation Intel Core processors (Y series). The lower power demand translates into longer battery life and, more importantly, less heat. That means that Core M designs can be designed to operate without fans, making them truly silent.

Because the Core M design is 50 percent smaller and 30 percent thinner than Haswell equivalents, it also means that motherboards can be slimmer and more compact. In theory, Intel says, OEMs can build Core M-based PCs as thin as 9 mm.

Intel claims battery life improvements of as much as 20 percent compared to current-generation products. For a standard workload on a typical Ultrabook-class system, that translates into about 1.7 hours of battery life, with slightly better computing performance and significantly improved graphics processing.

Anyone replacing an older PC will, of course, see dramatically improved performance and battery life. In its messaging at today’s announcement, Intel compared a reference design using the new Core M to a four-year-old laptop using a 520M ultra-low-voltage CPU. Not surprisingly, the newer PC blew away the older model, handling basic business computing tasks twice as fast and encoding video at 7.6 times the speed.

New PCs incorporating Core M CPUs will be available in October from Lenovo, HP, Dell, and ASUS. Lenovo, for example, showed off its new ThinkPad Helix convertible this week at the IFA tradeshow in Berlin. The device has an 11.6-inch display, weighs 816.5 grams, and is 9.7 mm thick. The addition of a Core M CPU means the device has no moving parts.

You can expect the supply of Core M devices to be limited this year. More designs and greater availability will have to wait till early in 2015.

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