Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Everyone knows that with each successive generation of computer chips, they get more powerful and often more power efficient. But for the latest Intel processors, progress may come early.

Intel is planning to cut power demands in its current line of Core processors, known as Ivy Bridge, which serve as CPUs in most PCs and Macs sold today, CNET reports. While Intel was already planning to slash power consumption to the extreme in the next generation of processors, code named "Haswell" -- the leaner Ivy Bridge chips -- would presumably come much sooner than that

No date has been given for Haswell's release, although allegedly leaked roadmaps have pointed to mid-2013.

With better power efficiency, the new version of Ivy Bridge chips would be even more suitable for portable form factors such as tablets. Today, if a Windows PC manufacturer wants to build a tablet, it generally has three chip options:

An Intel Core (or AMD) processor, necessitate a bulkier form factor to accommodate larger batteries and cooling systems.

An Intel Atom processor, which uses much less power than Core but at the price of some performance.

An ARM-based processor, which is extremely power efficient but won't let the user run apps designed for earlier versions of Windows.

If manufacturers could build tablets with Core processors without sacrificing portability or battery life, it would open up the possibility of even more "hybrid" designs PCs that function as both a laptop and a tablet. Few Core-based hybrids have tablets that completely detach from their keyboards, mainly because of their power demands.

The coming Microsoft Surface Pro, due in January, is one of those designs. Although Microsoft hasn't specified exactly what chip is in the Surface Pro, it's expected to be a current Ivy Bridge processor, not one of the coming more power efficient designs.