updated 07:03 pm EDT, Mon August 11, 2014
Pushes back possibility of Broadwell-based MacBooks into 2015
Intel's latest consumer-class CPUs, the energy-saving "Broadwell" chips, will only be appearing in limited quantities this year -- and even then only the lowest-end of the chip range will be available, intended for fanless devices like tablets and hybrid tablet-ultrabook devices, says Intel. The new delay, particularly of the more powerful variants, will put a dent in the plans of notebook manufacturers to release power-sipping revamped products in time for the holiday buying season.
Broadwell chips are based on a 14-nanometer design, down from the current 22nm, and consequently bring down power requirements by some 30 percent while offering the same performance as current "Haswell" CPUs. The chip line is divided into three classes: Core M, intended for very low-power devices; the "U" series, aimed at notebooks and ultrabooks; and the "H" series, intended for desktops and all-in-one systems.
Intel has twice delayed the arrival of the chips, though it will honor a promise from the CEO to get some of the "Core M" series out before the end of the year. The company now says only that the more powerful U and H series will arrive "in the coming months," suggesting that releases will appear across at least the first half of 2015, which could impact plans for manufacturers who rely on Intel-based chips for their products, such as Apple and HP.
Apple recently upgraded its MacBook Pro line with a minor speed bump, and assuming it continues to rely on Intel for its MacBook chips, the Broadwell news could push back any further significant revamps of the line until up to a year from now. Apple last revised the MacBook Air in April to drop the price, and the Retina-class MacBook Pro revision in late July received slightly faster processors and more RAM as standard on the lower-end models, with the sole surviving non-Retina model getting a modest price cut.
The appeal of a notebook or ultrabook that can stretch its battery life up to another 30 percent would be prized by all manufacturers, and particularly to Mac notebook buyers, who can take advantage of further power-management efficiency introduced in the current and forthcoming versions of OS X. However, the "U" chip series most likely to be used in Apple's notebooks (and similar machines from other companies) are unlikely to even begin shipping until early in 2015, making their appearance at retail more in line with the mid-year "Dads & Grads" marketing cycle.
The "H" series chips, that are intended for AIO computers like the iMac or modest desktops like the Mac mini are now scheduled to start shipping in mid-year, making it likely that any serious revamp of those two products (or others like Dell's XPS One) will have to wait until next year's holiday season. The news is less grim for companies making low-end hybrid tablet-laptops or Intel-based laptops, as the Core M might turn up in quantity shipping units in time for the later part of the holiday buying season, and such devices will get to be first to claim the benefits of the protracted battery life.
Rumors have suggested that Apple may be working on a consolidated new version of the MacBook Air that unifies the two models into one 12-inch, fanless unit that could rely on a Core M chip, at least in a lower-priced model. KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a good but mixed track record of predictions, has claimed such a device (including a "clickless" trackpad) is in the works, and expected it to arrive by year's end.