It had to happen on #13 right? On my recent 14-day tour of IFA and IDF (Berlin, San Francisco) I prepared myself with four devices. One Windows laptop. One Chromebook. One smartphone and one featurephone. What I didn’t plan for was a total failure of the main Windows laptop. Chromebooks don’t work as a fallback laptop.
Everything had gone very smoothly with my Haswell-based Ultrabook. The platform has great battery life (in this case, all-day working without a charge) and 1080p video editing and rendering for my (admittedly basic) YouTube videos. Photo editing (for blogs) is easy and there’s enough space in a 128GB SSD for a two-week session. When your Ultrabook fails, however, you’ll need a backup. I’m usually equipped with a second, lower-powered Windows laptop or tablet but this time I only had the Lenovo N20p Chromebook. While that has battery life, a quality browser, good WiFi and a keyboard that won’t drive me crazy it can’t handle video editing. When you’re producing up to 15 videos for YouTube per day you need local processing. Lesson learnt. A Chromebook is not a fallback solution.
In an Intel-led Core M benchmarking meeting today I saw a set of controlled benchmarks from a 6W TDP Core M product. The tests were performed in an 685 gram 12.5-inch Llama Mountain reference tablet with a machined aluminum rear casing that is optimal for this design. We also saw a copper-based rear casing that can handle a lot more thermal energy but you won’t see that happening in consumer products. The benchmark scores we saw were more than I had expected.
Note that these are the scores from a high-end 6W TDP Core M 5Y70. The 4.5W TDP Core M SoCs won’t perform this well and in a product with a less-than-perfect thermal design there could be heat issues that prevent Turbo Boost reaching these high levels.
GPU performance needs to be further tested and long-term gaming could impact Turbo Boost capability.
This is the best you’ll see from Core M at 2.8 2.6 Ghz but it’s important to remember that this is best-of-Core M right now. I’m going to be pushing to get the new Lenovo Helix 2 in for testing so at that point we’ll get our first real-product results.
The Intel IDF 2014 keynote is about to start. Core M, Realsense, Perceptual Computing, 2-in-1 are keywords I’m expecting to hear a lot over the next hour and I’ll be noting significant announcements here on this ‘live notepad’ as I go along. Refresh to update on mobile technology announcements.
Above: Core M laptops and 2-in-1’s, probably the same as we saw at IFA.
Every August I get myself organized for IFA and IDF, the two most enjoyable and informative events on my circuit. CES in Las Vegas is fun but there are more relevant products and information for me at IFA and IDF, the Intel Developer Forum. This years tour is 14 days long so once again I need reliable kit. In 2013 I took an Ultrabook, a 270-degree rotating touchscreen netbook-style laptop and two Nokia phones along with my bridge camera. This year I’ve got the same line-up but with three different computing devices. I’ve dropped my Acer W510 and replaced it with, no, not the Acer Switch 10, but a Chromebook. The two Nokia phones are also different.
The Chromebook I’ve chosen (I bought it, it’s not a loaner) is the Lenovo N20p shown above and I chose it because since I reviewed the Lenovo Flex 10 I’ve been a huge fan of 270-degree fold-back screens. It permits lay-flat mode (ever used that in bed or to raise the screen up in a seat-back scenario? If not, you should) and the really useful, casual and coffee-table friendly tablet-stand mode.
The Lenovo N20p Chromebook won’t be with me during the working day but it will be my travel companion. Films (most carried on the MyDigitalSSD PocketVault USB3.0 SSD drive) and consumption of RSS/Magazines/podcasts should be the main scenarios (the latter will be an interesting challenge for a cloud device while in the air) but I also expect to use offline Google Drive to write the occasional blog post.
I expect the N20p to be my consumption device in the evenings while the Ultrabook crunches videos and images. With 7-8 hours (measured) of video battery life and an estimated 6 hours of casual web browsing the Lenovo N20p is likely to be well-used over the next 14 days.
Moving on to the smartphones I’ve got the Nokia Lumia 1020 (bought very recently) with the Xenon flash and 42MP sensor. I expect to be able to get some good low-light photos and some quick videos. It’s got all the maps on it, my music, podcasts, RSS feeds and of course, Twitter, Skype, Facebook and Whatsapp for messaging. In the background will be a Nokia 808 running 2G with no data connection a multi-SIM card (same phone number as on the 1020) It’s simply my back-up phone (it will last over 7 days without charge in this scenario) and backup camera if everything else goes wrong. Talking of cameras I’m still using the Panasonic Lumix FZ150. I didn’t upgrade to the FZ200 but having read some reviews on the FZ1000 I’m close to buying something new in the telephoto camera/video department. Why a bridge camera? It’s light and it’s good enough for online photography and video in almost any light. I’ll stress that again – I’m creating news content for online usage, not creating 4K documentaries.
The usual paraphernalia will go with me. A USB power pack, Bluetooth headphones, cables and cards and as with last years tour (mobile reporting kit 12) it won’t be a lightweight kit. Perhaps the Lumia 1020 and the Ultrabook would be enough on their own but for a 14-day tour that would be too risky.
There’s one thing I want to highlight about my year-old Haswell-based Ultrabook. The battery isn’t as strong as it was and although I’m still getting 6+ hours out of it, it’s going to be a risk if I don’t take the power adaptor. Remember this, if you’re thinking about an all-day PC, it might not be ‘all-day’ a year later.
Here’s a kit I’ve been having fun with this summer. I’ve dropped the Nokia 808 for the Lumia 1020 (I didn’t have the 1020 until recently) but that Acer W4 (3G version) with the Microsoft Wedge keyboard and Changers solar panel and storage is about as light, as capable and as efficient as it gets right now. If you’re thinking about an ultra-mobile and ultra-light kit this weighs just 1.4KG (ignore the additional stand as it’s included in the Wedge keyboard cover.
Intel’s Core M reminds me of a moment in 2008 when I briefly tested a Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium. It was one of the few UMPCs around that used a Core Solo processor instead of the very low-end pre-Atom CPUs and it was a breakthrough in handheld PC performance. Core M is going to allow manufacturers to make exactly the same sort of breakthrough from ‘just enough’ into mainstream performance on a handheld PC except this time it’s fanless. Core M is going to be the first CPU that allows manufacturers to make different types of tablet PC without the compromises of size, heat and noise that have been associated with previous high-power Windows tablets.
That much was clear from early information we got about the Core M / Broadwell Y processing platform at Computex. A 600 gram 10-inch tablet running ‘Core’ without fans is special but yesterday Intel gave us more details about how they’ve achieved performance, sizing and TDP improvements.
Before we sing the praises of fanless Windows tablets too loud let us consider the Surface Pro 3 vs the HP Pro X2 410. Both of these use Core i5 CPUs but the HP Pro X2 is fanless. It also gets hot and throttles the performance so much that you can easily get into situations where an Atom-based tablet might be better. The latest Core CPUs use thermal measurements to calculate short-term CPU overclocking but if the system gets too hot, you end up with an under-clocked system. It means that the Surface Pro 3, which has a quiet fan, is much, much more powerful than the HP Pro X2. Fanless systems can be a disadvantage.
We don’t quite know how much Core M devices will be affected by throttling yet. Larger devices with more airspace, and I expect to see some interesting 12-13-inch designs soon, will have the advantage over thinner designs with less ‘thermal headroom’ but leading edge designs may be able to squeeze more out of the platform. This slide from Intel is really worth studying. In it you can see how device thickness impacts on the TDP limits. At the extremes, that’s with a 7mm thick 10-inch design, you’ve got just 3W of TDP to play with. Ambient temperature becomes more critical too and I demonstrated that with the HP Pro X2 410 in my review at Notebookcheck.
What is certain though is that in terms of marketing, Core M-based fanless Windows tablets will offer some real differentiators. Light weight, thin designs, silent operation and, you can be sure, 1.6-2.4Ghz clock ranges will sound impressive. Underclocking to 600Mhz won’t be in the list of features though so we’ll have to look carefully at the first tests. I’ll certainly be looking out for this when I attend the Intel Developer Forum in September.
Core M tablets and 2-in-1s will be high-end devices. They need to be to cover the costs of this leading edge CPU on its new manufacturing process. Although Intel says that the “14 nm product yield is now in healthy range” and that considering the 14nm process produces more chips per wafer you can guarantee that Broadwell-Y will have lower yield than other SKUs. Each one will have to be carefully tested to see if it meets Intel’s standards.
Those high-end devices will offer some nice features though. Although there are Atom-based platforms that offer reasonable Gen-7 Intel graphics and Intel Quick Sync video hardware the CPU and video processing here is going to be in another league. It’s not desktop-gaming capable but it’s certainly going to enable fast ‘Pro-Am’ 1080p video editing and rendering. GPGPU acceleration for HTML5 is also likely to be in a different league meaning the ever-important Web applications will be faster. Given that gaming capability is not a key feature the platform would match requirements for a high-end Chromebook quite nicely. There’s power here for some impressive X86 Android gaming experiences too and we shouldn’t forget that Core M won’t be just for Windows, at least when the pricing comes down.
In terms of battery life Intel have revealed a few features and optimisations that could help significantly in some scenarios. Video playback and typing, as I’m doing here, should get a significant battery-life boost from the optimised power control elements in the new platform. TDP is said to down by up to ‘2x’ (meaning 3W TDP SKUs are probably in the pipeline) for the same performance level. That’s impressive. Due to die size reductions there’s more space for battery too although it’s likely that some of this space needs to be used for airflow improvements. Given the cost of batteries I wouldn’t expect any increases. On the contrary, you might see battery sizes reduce on the lower-end and thinner products.
You’ll find a detailed analysis at the new Broadwell architechture over at Anandtech so don’t forget to check that out too.
In summary the Core M range of SoCs, like other ‘Y-series’ or ‘SDP’ oriented designs will offer a lot to the designer and a lot to the marketing manager and we’ll have to be careful to analyse what this really translates to in terms of performance for power users. There may not be enough in Core M to run a complete daily desktop experience and for consumers, the prices could be high but thin and light fanless designs are critical and it looks like Intel have enabled a product range that can offer that. Given some good, showcase designs – and the ASUS Transformer Book Chi could be one of them – there could be enough here to elevate Intel-based tablets into a unique position and that’s exactly what Intel need. Core M is the differentiator-enabler.
Although Intel are updating the current Baytrail D/M range, we’re looking forward to a 14m version and an all-round update for Windows tablets and mobile PCs. That update was previously thought to be CherryTrail but it turns out that Braswell is in the mix too.
At IDF in Shenzen Intel announced Braswell for ‘Entry Systems.’ Given that the presentation was given by Intel’s PC Client Group this means that it’s likely be the replacement for Baytrail-M and D that we see in low-cost PCs and tablets today. E.g. the Medion Akoya P2212T
Braswell is a 14nm product presumably using the Airmont Core although this wasn’t confirmed in the IDF presentation. Coverage of Braswell in the press release was very brief…
In a brief preview of Intel’s future roadmap for PCs and mobile devices, Skaugen said the effort to bring innovation to the value space will continue in earnest with the next-generation 14nm SoC, code-named Braswell.
In his presentation, Kirk Skaugen had this to say.
“Today I want to announce the codename of the next generation Atom microarchitecture-based PC called Braswell. It will be a leading 14nm nanometer technology delivering an even lower bill of materials cost and higher performance.” We assume Kirk meant SoC and not PC in that announcement.
Braswell may also be targeted for Chromebooks
Braswell’s size, highly-integrated design and efficiency will allow manufacturers to produce lower cost devices by reducing design time, bill of materials and the size of the battery needed.
CherryTrail-T remains the ‘high-end’ of the next generation Windows CPUs and we’re likely to see this on tablets at the start of 2015 with a few products possibly making it to market for the December holiday period.
Intel’s developer forum for China kicked of today in Shenzen. We weren’t able to attend but we’ve been following it closely. Much of the news related to mobile and tablet PCs is to be found in the forum session PDFs and we’ve already seen how Intel are launching a back-to-school initiative based around new Celeron and Pentium Baytrail-M CPUs and have published details of USB3.1.
Most of the 35 minutes keynote is focused around the ecosystem in China but it includes info on the 40 million tablet target, news about Realsense (Lenovo S440 with integrated Realsense demonstrated,) Edison (now on Atom) and SoFIA, the integrated 3G/Atom platform for Android (and possibly Windows) tablets and phones.
I’d like to highlight this very interesting presentation given at IDF Shenzen because it covers all the important elements that USB3.1 is going to bring to PCs. It’s not just about the Type-C reversible connector because it includes power delivery, higher speed and an AV class of connectivity.
We’re focusing on mobile PC solutions here at ‘Ultra Mobile PC Portal’ but always have a quiet eye on the emerging and complex areas of Internet of Things, In-Vehicle-Infotainment as well as areas that affect UMPCs such as USB3.1, WiDi and Thunderbolt. A number of detailed and revealing PDFs are now available from the Intel IDF Shenzen content catalogue that I would recommend you download and glance through if you’re working in any of these areas.
Here’s a list of PDFs available now. The list will update tomorrow with day 2 presentations.
Following recent hints that new versions of the Baytrail-M processors would be launched Intel have confirmed by publishing details of the new student-focused platform ahead of IDF. It’s called BTS’14 and it’s aimed at lowering the cost of Android and Windows tablet and 2-in-1 products.
A number of Pentium N3000 CPUs will be launched which include improved CPU and GPU frequency over previous Baytrail-M parts and support for Intel Quick Sync, the hardware video encoder usable through the Intel Media SDK. A set of Celeron N2000-series CPUs will also feature Intel Quick Sync support, increased memory speed over previous models and in some cases a CPU clock boost.
It’s going to be one crazy day for me on Wednesday. Two important events will take place that will give us a deeper understanding as to what’s going to happen with Windows tablets this year. Intels IDF event takes place in China and later in the day Microsoft kick-off their BUILD developer event. I’ll be covering them both.