After months of teasers, Intel kicked off shipments of fourth-generation Core processors code-named Haswell, with the first batch being quad-core chips for laptops and desktops.
The Haswell chips, which also include dual-core chips to be announced at a later date, will be in PCs, laptops and tablets that are thinner, less expensive and have longer battery life. Intel claims Haswell will improve battery life in laptops by 50 percent, and up to triple the graphics performance compared to Core processors code-named Ivy Bridge, which shipped last year.
The first Haswell quad-core chips announced on Saturday include five Core i7 mainstream laptop processors and 12 quad-core Core i7 and i5 desktop chips. Dual-core Haswell chips for thin-and-light laptops and hybrids are expected to be announced on June 4 at the Computex trade show in Taiwan.
The Haswell launch is important for Intel, which generates a large chunk of its revenue from PC processor shipments. But the PC market is in a free fall due to tablets and smartphones, said research firm IDC last week. IDC is forecasting PC shipments to fall by 7.8 percent in 2013, higher than the drop of 1.3 percent this year originally estimated.
Intel wants to rejuvenate the PC market with Haswell while retaining its lead in the market. The chip maker also hopes to bridge the gap between tablets and laptops with Haswell.
At Computex, Acer, Asustek, MSI and Dell will announce PCs, tablets and hybrid systems that can be laptops or tablets. Hewlett-Packard has announced new laptops starting at under US$500, desktops starting at $289, and all-in-ones starting at $619.
"We think this is one of the most important launches in a while," said Dan Bingham, marketing manager of Intel's PC Client Group.
Haswell processors were designed for thin-and-light laptops and tablets, with focus on performance-per-watt and longer battery life. The longer battery won't hurt performance, and in idle or standby mode the chips can extend battery life by up to 20 times.
Beyond power efficiency, Haswell's biggest improvement is in graphics, which was a weak spot in previous Core processors. Fourth-generation Core chips will get up to a two times boost in graphics, which grows to three times for desktop chips compared to previous Core processors code-named Ivy Bridge. The graphics processor will support 4K displays, or a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, without the need to plug in an extra graphics card.
"They've beefed up graphics. It's Intel's hope that with improved graphics people won't need a [discrete] graphics card to play games," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.
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