Intel’s new fanless processor could power your next laptop, tablet, or both

Intel’s line of Core processors follow a tick-tock upgrade cycle, much like the iPhone. One year brings a redesign, and then the year afterwards Intel focuses on performance gains and optimization.

Last time we checked on Broadwell — the “tick” cycle that Intel’s been working on — the delayed processor family was nearing completion, and was used in a skinny, fanless Intel prototype tablet. Now we’ve got a good idea of the consumer devices it’ll be powering as Core M, its consumer-facing name for the chip, as soon as this October.

The Core M line of processors is exciting because it’s built on the new [company]Intel[/company] 14 nanometer process. The current generation of Core chips, codenamed Haswell, use a 22nm process. The 14nm process matters because it uses smaller dies, which means more dies in the same amount of area, which leads to a decrease in power consumption. The Core M promises to pack power — up to twice the general computing speed — as well as a significant reduction in power usage. The Core M is so power efficient that it doesn’t need a fan to cool it down.

Core M Devices

The combination of speed and power efficiency makes the Core M a perfect fit for hybrid notebooks that also convert into touchscreen tablets. [company]Lenovo[/company] will use the chip in the latest version of its Thinkpad Helix, a Windows 8.1 laptop with a detachable screen.


ThinkPad Helix

[company]Dell[/company] is also prepping a hybrid notebook, called the Dell Latitude 13 7000, which is a business-focused laptop that turns into a tablet.


Asus Zenbook UX 305


Asus will be using the Core M in a variety of products, including the skinny Zenbook UX305, one of the few traditional clamshell laptops set up to include the chip at the moment. It’s still using the Intel “ultrabook” name, and will take advantage of the increased graphics capabilities of the Core M to drive a 13-inch screen with a 3200 x 1800 max resolution.

Intel fully expects OEMs to continue using power-efficient Bay Trail-based Atom chips for devices with screens under eight inches. We’ve been seeing that chip pop up in a bunch of inexpensive tablets, and you can expect that to continue. But more powerful devices with screens over 10-inches are the sweet spot for the Core M line — most of the announced devices so far cost around $1000. Although [company]Microsoft[/company] may be moving away from touch hybrids in future versions of Windows, thin, fanless, and light design will improve traditional laptops as well.

The Core M would be a great fit in the next version of Microsoft’s impressive Surface Pro 3, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the 12-inch [company]Apple[/company] MacBook rumored for this fall will be sporting Intel’s new silicon.