Intel’s new family of mobile, fanless processors is official and the first Intel Core M tablets, notebooks and convertibles are expected next month. This is relatively odd timing on Intel’s part, as the back-to-school shopping season used to be the one of the best times to roll out new laptop chips, but back-to-school simply isn’t what it used to be.
Ultra slim performance
Intel describes Core M as the chip “that’s been missing” from its portfolio. The general idea is simple – Core M is supposed to bring mainstream performance to fanless devices, including ultraslim notebooks, tablets and 2-in-1s.
As we reported last month, Intel decided to use new branding for its 4.5W Broadwell parts and it settled on Core M. In addition to Windows 8.x machines, Core M is coming to Chromebooks next year.
Thanks to fresh Broadwell 14nm silicon, Intel says Core M should deliver a 1.9x performance boost in web apps, browsing, photo editing and similar multimedia tasks. That’s just part of the story though. Since this is the first generation of Core M products intel is comparing the Core M-5Y70 to the Core i5-520UM, but the new Core M has a TDP of just 4.5W, whereas the Core i5-520UM is an 18W part. Intel says the chip is about 50 percent faster than comparable 4th generation Core parts.
As a result, Core M products should deliver vastly superior battery life. Better yet the frugal chips will allow designers to come up with thinner designs with smaller batteries without sacrificing much in terms of functionality.
Pricing and availability
Bringing the best of both worlds to ultraslims does not come cheap. A number of designs have already been announced, starting at $999, which is what consumers will have to pay for an entry level 11.6-inch Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2. Sounds a bit like Intel’s not-so-successful Ultrabook push, but the chipmaker says Core M devices should start at about $699.
The first products are coming in late September, although October sounds like a more realistic date for global availability. Intel expects just five to seven devices to launch this year, but about 20 are in the pipeline for 2015.
That does not sound like much, but this is a tight niche for the time being. For the time being Core M is not for high-volume designs with affordable price tags. Bay Trail and Braswell are designed with that market in mind.