Intel unveils new chips for ultra-thin laptop users

Intel Corp. announced on Monday new Intel Core processors for ultra-thin laptops with a magic number of 32: better performance and slimmer by 32 per cent. One analyst thinks the consumer devices will have enterprise applicability as long as the IT department can get over some perception issues.


The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker is targeting laptop users who are not power app users but who want performance, longer battery life and a lightweight form factor. “We’ve got a perfect balance between the battery life, between the performance and between the style,” said Mooly Eden, vice-president and general manager of Intel’s PC client group, during a Web cast.


The processor is available from the entry-level ULV (ultra-low power) Celeron, to the Pentium all the way to the high-end ULV i7. Based on the Nehalem architecture, the chips are equipped with Intel Turbo Boost and Intel HD integrated high-definition graphics. Eden demoed the technology for day-to-day apps such as PowerPoint and image manager Picassa, but said the laptops will also be good for “geeky” apps if the user so chooses.


Eden said the chips, with a thermal design point (TDP) of 17 Watts, render 35 per cent better performance when multi-tasking, offer a more than 40 per cent increase in performance and responsiveness for video editing apps, and have twice the graphics capabilities.


The overall ecosystem including the chip, battery life, OEMs and software will draw 20 per cent less power with a thermal design point (TDP) at 50 per cent lower, said Eden.


As for the sexy and lighter form factor, Eden said, “let’s admit it, thin is in.” He even predicted that ultra-thin laptops would get as slim as 0.75 inches, though the cooling technology would make them more costly. “But, definitely, the capability is there, and it’s up to the OEM to identify the market opportunity and design for the market opportunity,” said Eden.

Steve Kleynhans, vice-president of Gartner Canada, told ComputerWorld Canada there is a market for the ultra-thin laptops using the new chips if the IT department can see past the cool and slim form factor. “When you buy something that is too thin, too lightweight, the IT department says, ‘that’s not going to last,’” said Kleynhans.


Enterprise users are typically not heavy-duty users, so Intel’s focus on the day-to-day app user market with the new chip fits enterprise needs, said Kleynhans.


Eden said he believes the ultra-thin market is growing, albeit not as fast as previously thought, but it’s definitely not slowing down. “I’m not sure it’s leveling off, the ramp was slower than we expected initially,” he said. But as price points drop, said Eden, the segment growth will accelerate.


The new chip will be available already integrated in OEM offerings at the beginning of June 2010 worldwide. OEMs such as MSI, Lenovo, Asus, Gateway and others will offer new systems with new chips.
Kleynhans agreed that the ultra-thin laptop market will grow but said that one barrier has always been the higher cost at much less value. “Right out of the shute, they always lacked an optical drive, the processors they had were of (lower) performance, They had poor graphics,” asid Kleynhans. “You just went down the list.”


Besides the poor specs, Kleynhans said the remaining selling factor is the sexy form factor, “and how much were you wiling to pay for that?”


Currently, Intel’s consumer ULV chips are two-core. That will remain the case for the consumer ultra-thin segment, said Eden, because there must be a balance of battery life, weight, form factor and performance. While Intel can deliver a four-core ULV, Eden said it’s “not the right trade-off for the market right now.”


On the topic of tablets, Eden said the ULV processor will not be integrated in the tablet because it will require an even thinner TDP and a lower power solution than the ULV currently has. Intel, he said, will offer a dedicated silicon for the tablet space.


Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau