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Intel aims next-gen 14nm 'Broadwell' technology at fanless tablets, Ultrabooks

Mark Hachman | Aug. 12, 2014
Intel formally describes the technical secrets behind its 14nm 'Broadwell' process technology, which will power the upcoming Core M for laptops and tablets and the next-generation Core desktop chips.


On Monday, Intel formally unveiled its 14nm manufacturing technology, a capability the company believes will usher in a new generation of fanless Ultrabooks and tablets.

Intel's 14nm technology will generally be known as the "Broadwell" generation, the manufacturing technology that will underscore a new generation of products from tablets up through processors powering servers. Within the notebook and tablet market, those products will be known as the "Core M."

Intel is expected to more formally launch the Core M products and the Broadwell generation at the IFA show in September. An Intel spokeswoman said the Core M will ship before the end of 2014, with systems on shelves by the end of 2014. Broadwell chips for the desktop, using the Core brand name, will follow shortly thereafter, she said. 

Since the Broadwell generation represents manufacturing improvements and not a new chip design, the selling point is significantly reduced power. (Shrinking the process technology allows Intel the option to either increase performance, while holding power consumption constant, or cut power, while holding performance constant. In the notebook space, Intel has chosen the latter.)

What this means, then, is that notebooks and tablets using the new Broadwell chips will offer the same performance as the current "Haswell" chips (which power today's Core chips), with the same battery life--but much lower power. In the real world, that will mean a "radically different" form factor: tablets 8 millimeters thick or even thinner, said Stephan Jourdan, the chief architect of Broadwell, an Intel fellow, and the director of its system-on-a-chip architecture. Intel has already shown off one of those prototype tablets, known as Llama Mountain.

Jourdan said tablets running Broadwell chips like the Core M will consume 3 to 5 watts. The low power and thin design could mean eliminating one computing annoyance: the hissing fan.

"The one takeaway I want you to have is that this will deliver the experience of the Intel Core in fanless systems," Rani Borkar, vice president of the platform engineering group.

That doesn't mean all Broadwell systems will eliminate fans, an Intel spokeswoman said. But OEMs will have the opportunity to design ultrathin tablets systems that could eliminate fans, a real first for the Core processor platform. "Putting the processor behind the glass is a lot more difficult than putting it in the base of an Ultrabook or notebook," Karen Regis, a mobile marketing manager at Intel, said.

Intel executives say it did achieve a modest 5 percent improvement over Haswell in the instructions per clock that Broadwell will achieve. In graphics, however, Broadwell will significantly improve, with 20 percent more compute power and 50 percent higher sampling than Haswell, plus twice the performance of the video quality engine. Broadwell chips like the Core M will support Direct X 11.2, and chips will support 4K and UHD resolutions.


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