updated 05:07 am EDT, Fri June 6, 2014
Intel set to deliver full PC power in an ARM-sized tablet package
Intel has often debuted some high profile products at Computex Taipei given the importance of Taiwanese PC vendors like Acer and Asus, and the 2014 show is exception. Perhaps the biggest news the chip giant had to announce this is year is the forthcoming Broadwell-based 14nm Core M chip designed for 2-in-1 mobile PCs. What makes it particularly significant is that it is the first fanless mobile PC reference design from Intel, paving the way for extremely thin 2-in-1 tablet designs. Although designed for 2-in-1 designs, it could make its way into the next-generation MacBook Air rumored to arrive later this year. Intel's Llama Mountain reference design comes in at just 7.2mm, supporting Intel's claims this is the more power-efficient Core design it has made.
As the device is only a reference design and final specifications for the chip will only be finalized closer to launch later this year, Intel was reluctant to let Electronista get our hands directly on the device, but they were prepared to allow us to get close to a special working unit not hidden behind a glass case. One of the reasons Intel has targeted the new Broadwell-based Core M chip at 2-in-1 devices is that, like all of Intel's Core-series chips, the chip in the new Llama Mountain reference tablet features Turbo Boost. However, the extra performance is only available when the device is connected to its dock, which also provides a shot of cooling allowing the chip to reach peak performance. The Turbo Boost performance makes perfect sense in this usage context as users are more likely to require the extra performance when in docked mode for productivity purposes.
While some have suggested that Apple could opt to use this particular chip in what could be its first-ever fanless MacBook Air design, it seems unlikely that this won't necessarily be the case given the ability of the chip to Turbo Boost. Unless Apple is able to develop a unique design solution, or opt for a version of the chip without Turbo Boost, it is still likely that the MacBook Air will continue with a fan in the short term, at least in a 11- or 12-inch model. Another feature of the new chip that Intel hinted at is the graphics potential of the next-generation integrated Broadwell Core M GPU. Although short Intel was short on details, it is clearly excited at the prospect of being able to still deliver high-performance graphics from an especially low-Watt design.
Keep an eye out for devices shipping with the Intel Broadwell-based design coming in the second-half of 2014. As always, you can count on Electronista to keep you up to date with all the latest and most important tech news.