Intel is planning a new super-low-voltage Core processor to power the next generation of x86 tablets, ultrabooks and hybrid tablet/ultrabook designs.
The move comes as tablet sales continue to soar and affordable ultrabooks move further into the mainstream.
Intel’s ‘Cove Point’ hybrid concept: a tablet-cum-ultrabook slider with a 12.5-inch screen.
Intel’s dilemma is that the push for ever-thinner designs – a must-have trait if convertibles are to gain serious traction – will find that even Intel’s ultra-low voltage Core designs are too thirsty, while the mighty-mite Atom lacks the sheer muscle for day-to-day computing needs.
The fix? A new skew of the Core family which draws just 10 watts, compared to the 17 watts of today’s ULV designs – enough to almost halve power consumption.
The chips will arrive in the second half of 2013 as part of the fourth generation of Core processors built around the 22nm Haswell architecture, which succeeds the third-gen Ivy Bridge series.
“There are certain sweet spots for thermals,” says Rob Deline, Intel’s Director of ultrabook marketing.
“Our standard voltage (chip) is 35 watts, which is optimised for higher-end gaming systems. That’s where a lot of quad-core sales are going into.”
“Then we have the 17 watt roadmap for ultra-low voltage, and the bulk of today’s ultrabooks are using that.”
“But we know that if we want to get into the next generation of thinner, lighter, cooler and quieter convertible-based systems there are certain constraints in the platform, and one of those is even lower power,” Deline told APC.
“Think of the 10 watt processor as filling the gap between the Atom, which today is 2 watts and our initial ULV offering of 17 watts,” Deline suggests.
Intel’s super-low voltage chips won’t go up against ARM-based processors, which still rule the tablet roost and will drive Microsoft’s first Surface tablets running Windows 8 RT.
ARM’s power consumption rates below 2 watts, so this corner of the market will remain an ARM vs Atom stoush.
What Intel hopes the 10-watt chips will do is ensure the success of tablets and convertibles running the full Windows 8 OS and capable of delivering a more PC-like experience – without compromising on the form factor and all-day battery life.