updated 05:55 am EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
Intel to debut first fanless 'Haswell' mobile chip design later this year
The first fanless low-voltage Core i-series chip from Intel based on the 'Haswell' architecture is inbound for a late 2013 debut. This will enable a new generation of Windows and other tablets that will be able to offer full performance in a much thinner, ARM or Atom-like tablet design. Intel says that the new chip will sip just 4.5 Watts, meaning that a 2-in-1 tablet maker like Microsoft will be able to create a Surface Pro 2 that would be much more like the Surface RT in thickness and weight.
By comparison, current ARM chip designs run at 2.5 Watts or lower, while the overall system-on-a-chip package is also significantly smaller. This will mean that a fanless fourth-generation Core i-series chip will still require more space to accommodate its chip package its slightly hotter thermal design profile. While many reviewers praised the overall design and weight of the Tegra 3-powered Microsoft Surface RT, most were quick to point out that the Surface Pro is much heavier and thicker as a result of using the older 'Ivy Bridge' third-generation Core i-series design.
A Core i-series chip running without a fan could put pressure on Intel's own Atom chip line. However, in the short term, that is not likely to be a major issue as tablets running the new 'Haswell' chip will be selling in at a higher price point. At the same time, Intel's Atom line will continue to offer a full Windows experience in tablets with a very similar form factor and battery life compared to ARM-based Windows RT devices (which are rapidly becoming an endangered species).
It is likely that a tablet maker like Apple, however, will be keeping a close eye on the latest Intel Core i-series designs, whether it is for an Intel-based high-end tablet or a more powerful MacBook Air design. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Apple is testing a 13-inch tablet design - the new fanless Core i-series chip could comfortably operate in a tablet of those dimensions and could make for an interesting test bed for a possible iOS/OS X hybrid buried deep in Cupertino's skunk works. [via CNET]