Last week at the Intel® Developer Forum held April 10-11, 2013 in Beijing, China, Ultrabooks™ were in the spotlight as new experiences based on the 4th generation Intel® Core™ processor family were announced:
"Ultrabooks based on the 4th generation Intel Core processor family will enable exciting, new computing experiences and all-day battery life delivering the most significant battery life capability improvement in Intel's history," said Skaugen. "It will also bring to consumers a new wave of 'two-for-one' convertible and detachable systems that combine the best of a full PC experience with the best of a tablet in amazing new form factors." – Kirk Skaugen, Intel senior vice president and general manager of the PC Client Group
There are three major factors in this new announcement: amazing graphics, even more Ultrabook form factor designs, and low-power advances creating longer battery life. Touch capability will also be part of this new generation of devices, along with Intel® Wireless Display (Intel WiDi) enabled on all on all 4th generation Intel Core processor-based Ultrabook devices to allow people to quickly and securely stream content and apps from devices to the big screen.
4th generation Intel® Core™ processors
The Ultrabook computing category was first introduced in 2011 with a 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processor. This was ramped up greatly in 2012 with the addition of touch and mainstream price points, along with the 3rd generation Intel core processor. In 2013, we get to experience a 4th generation Intel Core processor and the concept of “2 for 1” computing; basically, we get to experience a table and a PC experience in one machine:
“The new Intel Core microarchitecture will allow the company to deliver up to double the graphics performance over the previous generation. In addition, the new graphics solution will have high levels of integration to enable new form factors and designs with excellent visual quality built in. Skaugen demonstrated these graphics improvements on the 4th generation Intel Core processor-based Ultrabook reference design called "Harris Beach." The demo featured Dirt 3*, a popular gaming title, showing the same visual experience and game play as a discrete graphics card that users would otherwise have to add separately. He also showed the 4th generation Intel Core processor-based concept, codenamed "Niagara," a premium notebook with the ability to play the unreleased enthusiast title Grid 2* from CodeMasters* without the aid of a discrete graphics card.” – Intel Newsroom
These new processors will include:
- new architecture on 22nm Tri Gate
- Intel Power Optimizer: 20x power reduction vs. 2nd gen Intel Core Processors
- integrated on package PCH for amazing form factors
- integrated audio DSP which means more battery life and higher quality
With this new generation of processors comes increasingly higher level graphics support, including:
- 3D graphics with up to 2x performance
- integrated on-package EDRAM memory
- API support
- Display with new 3-screen collage display
- enhanced 4k x 2k support
- 2x bandwidth with display port 1.2
- Media with new faster Intel Quick Sync Video
- faster JPEG and MPEG decode
- new OpenCL 1.2 support
(Source: IDF Keynote)
Touch is becoming more mainstream, and more consumers than ever before are expecting touch as a standard addition to their devices. In an Intel study of touch carried out in December of 2011, users chose touch nearly 80% of the time when given the choice between touch, keyboard, mouse, and track pad. These findings were echoed in another touch study by UX Innovation Manager Daria Loi:
“With touch capability becoming available in more and more Ultrabook devices, Intel undertook a research program to better understand if and how people might use touch capabilities in more traditional, notebook form-factor devices…… To spoil the ending, the results were positive-very positive, in fact. Users who were presented with a way to interact with their computers via touch, keyboard, and mouse found it an extremely natural and fluid way of working. One user described it using the Italian word simpatico-literally, that her computer was in tune with her and sympathetic to her demands.” – “The Human Touch: Building Ultrabook™ Applications in a Post-PC Age”
Touch designs in Ultrabook form factors continue to ramp up, especially with the October 2012 launch of Windows*8, and this trend is expected to continue.
One of the most intriguing announcements to come out of Beijing was the idea of heightened power consumption for the Ultrabook. Chips for notebooks, phones, and tablets are going to be greatly enhanced, boosting both runtime and standby power:
“By effectively removing nearly 3W of background drain, all operations are going to benefit, not just idle. Where Internet browsing was a 9W operation, expect to see that go down to around 6W for a big increase in battery life….. By reducing the mainboard size, space is created for more battery. Intel says there’s a chance to fit 20-45% more battery inside when motherboard sizes are reduced using HDI techniques.” – Ultrabooknews.com
Higher power expectations ties in with the announcement of 4th generation Intel Core processor Ultrabook systems that are coming out as early as June 2013 and on track for Q2 2013 launch.
Ultrabooks: just getting started
The experience you can expect from an Ultrabook with the new 4th generation core processor is, in a word, superior. These are extremely responsive machines that offer amazing performance, a natural UI with touch and voice, and AOAC (always on always connected) as a given. You also get to take advantage of Intel Identity Protection, anti-virus, facial log-in, vPro, and Small Business Advantage so your data is always safe. The machine itself is meant to be mobile, with all-day battery life, thinner lighter designs, and Intel Wireless Display. And let’s not forget that it just looks cool; great visuals, 2 in 1 convertibles and detachable form factors, not to mention a high res display.
Ultrabook as a PC category is continuing to drive market innovation; we’re seeing thinner form factors, intriguing designs (convertibles, detachable, etc.), and more natural human/computer interaction, such as voice control integration. Ultrabooks are able to deliver what is essentially a mobile computing experience; we’re looking at consumption usages similar to that of a smartphone or a tablet, with the productivity potential and sheer computing power of that of a full-blown PC. Is it a notebook or is it a tablet? The beauty of an Ultrabook is that it’s both.