Intel Rolls Out Next-Gen Core 'Broadwell' Chips

The new processors are aimed at notebooks, two-in-ones and other systems, but come only months before Intel releases the "Skylake" architecture.

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Intel is launching the latest generation of its processors for everything from traditional notebooks to mini PCs, two-in-one systems and the increasingly popular Chromebooks, as well as the growing number of devices in the Internet of things.

The chip maker on Jan. 5 announced the 14-nanometer 5th Generation Intel Core "Broadwell-U" family of processors, which will include such features as Intel's RealSense 3D camera technology, Wireless Display (WiDi) offering and voice assistants. Intel officials made the announcement at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

At the same time, they also said that the chip maker is shipping its "Cherry Trail" system-on-a-chip (SoC), a 14nm offering that also includes RealSense for gesture and object recognition and wires-free capabilities.

Intel officials expect tablets running on Cherry Trail coming in the first half of the year.

The move from 22nm to 14nm is a significant one, according to the company. The new processors will be smaller, more energy-efficient and less expensive than their larger predecessors, which will help fuel the growth of new PC form factors that Intel has been promoting, including two-in-one systems that can be used as either a traditional notebook or as a tablet. Intel officials have been promoting Broadwell for months. According to the company, the new chips will offer 24 percent better graphics, 50 percent faster video conversion and 1.5 hours more battery life than previous Core chips.

In all, the new chips have 35 percent more transistors than the 4th Generation Core lineup in a die that is 37 percent smaller, according to the chip maker. Company officials expect the transition to the new mobile Core processors to be the fastest in Intel's history.

There are 28 new chips in the 5th Generation Core family, including 10 new 15-watt chips that include Intel HD Graphics and four 28-watt products with the company's Iris graphics technology. They span Intel's Core i3, i5 and i7 chips and touch on its Celeron and Pentium products.

The release of the new generation of chips is significant for Intel, and not only for the move from 22nm to 14nm. It also gets Broadwell into the market after several months of delays following a manufacturing issue last year. Intel last year released the first of the Broadwell products under the Core M moniker and aimed at two-in-ones. These newer chips touch a broader range of systems.

During a media event at the CES show Jan. 4, Intel reportedly put on display a number of systems that will be introduced later during the show.

However, the delay also means that the release of Broadwell comes only months before the launch of Intel's next chip architecture, code-named "Skylake." Intel officials talked extensively about Skylake during the Intel Developer Forum in September 2014, even showing off a notebook powered by the technology and running 4K video. During IDF, Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's PC Client Group, said the vendor will release an early version early this year that will be offered as a software development platform, with the official Skylake launch coming in the second half of 2015.

What remains to be seen is how much money and effort OEMs will put into rolling out Broadwell-based systems when Skylake is just months away from release.