Haswell: The future has landed at Computex Taipei
For a while we've been told Intel's new Haswell chips are the future.
Well the future has now landed, with the new processors and a slew of ultrabooks and convertibles sporting them being unveiled at Computex in Taipei.
We're going to tell you how Haswell will revolutionise your computing experience - but first we'll briefly explain what it is.
What is Haswell?
So for the completely uninitiated, Haswell is Intel's latest line in Core processors - the mysterious chips found in every laptop and PC.
Dubbed fourth generation, Haswell processors will carry the familiar Core i3, i5 and i7 branding - after all, we like innovation but crave what we know. The slowest is i3, the fastest i7.
They follow last year's Ivy Bridge processors, and offer a number of improvements.
What does Haswell run on?
Intel says Haswell will underpin a new generation of 2in1 devices that switch between ultra-thin laptop and tablet. These will include premium ultrabooks.
Executive vice president Tom Kilroy said during the Taipei launch the chips would power "tablet-like mobility" in such devices.
Kilroy said: "The 2-in-1 is the new norm. It is a laptop when you need it. It is a tablet when you want it."
However, the new chips come in a plethora of guises: from desktop-based quad-core processors, dual-core mainstream processors, lower power longer battery-life ultrabook processors, and processors designed for tablets.
Haswell - how is it better: Battery
The main benefit from the new chips is boosting battery power and graphics of convertible laptops and tablets, including ultrabooks. Devices carrying them will also be faster than those with Ivy Bridge.
Intel says the new chips are capable of boosting active-use battery by 50% and delivering a three-fold increase in standby battery power.
The improvement in battery life is the biggest such gain in Intel's history, the chipmaker said.
They also boost performance by 15%, the chipmaker added.
Intel has also reduced the power consumption target to 10 to 20 watts. This is compared to 30 to 45 watts with Ivy Bridge. Some devices sporting Haswell use as little as six watts.
The chipmaker said this meant the new processors could be used in "cooler, quieter, fanless designs".
Speaking to the BBC, Navin Shenoy, vice president of the Intel Architecture Group, said: "If someone is typing on their PC, we can literally shut everything down when it's not being used and then immediately bring it back up again in between the keystrokes.
"The system is smart enough to know it's not being used for those nanoseconds. That's the kind of granular power management at the chip level that we've never had before."
Haswell - how is it better: Graphics
If you're buying a device with a Haswell processor you can also look forward to better graphics. When encoding high-def video or generating 3D graphics, some versions of the chip are capable of offering twice the performance of its predecessor. This is thanks to a graphics processing unit cutely named Iris.
However, the quality of graphics will differ across the fourth-generation range of processors. So, what you'd find in the top end quad-core processor will be better than that found in a Haswell tablet - naturally.
Haswell - the ultrabook redefined
Already it appears Haswell and ultrabooks were made for each other. So it seems only fitting Intel has redefined the parameters of what makes an ultrabook in light of the new chips arriving on the block.
In the Haswell age a laptop has to meet the following standards to be called an ultrabook. It must deliver a minimum of nine hours' battery in Win8 when idle and six hours when playing HD video.
Also, they need to last for up to seven days when in standby mode, as well as being able to wake from sleep mode in fewer than three seconds.
To be classed as an ultrabook, laptops must also feature touchscreens and Wi-Di technology. Wi-Di allows video to be streamed to a supported display.
Oh, and it has to be no thicker than 23mm and be set up to run voice command and control.
Haswell - the first devices
Acer was among the first to show off its Haswell-packing devices, with its Aspire S7 and S3 ultrabooks. Although not convertibles, these ultrabooks are super-slim and enabled for touchscreen Windows 8 frolics.
The Dell XPS 12 is among the convertible devices set to really benefit from Haswell. Flip the screen when in laptop mode and it turns into a touchscreen tablet. It says we can expect graphics two-thirds better than the previous XPS 12 model.
Asus' Transformer Book Trio is another convertible device packing Haswell. The trio converts from laptop, to tablet to desktop PC (when plugged into a monitor) and runs Haswell Core i7.
These are just a couple of examples to whet your appetite - Intel says there are more than 50 different 2-in-1 designs in the works based on either the fourth-generation Haswell or Silvermont processors.
Early designs for convertible devices from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Panasonic and Toshiba were shown off during Intel's press show.
We plan to give you the proper lowdown on Haswell devices once we know more.
But at least you know exactly what Haswell is and what it's capable of when the subject crops up down the pub.
Welcome to the future.
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