Intel is launching a full portfolio of “Skylake” processors that company officials expect will combine with Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system to help jump start a stagnant global PC market.
Executives with the chip maker have been talking about the 14-nanometer Skylake architecture and the advanced features that are contained within it for more than a year, touching on everything from graphics and imaging to security, memory, performance and wireless connectivity. In early August, Intel rolled out two Skylake chips—the Core i7-6700K and i5-6600K desktop processors—for gaming machines, and later in the month Intel gave out a few more details during the Intel Developer Forum (IDF).
However, it was at the IFA 2015 consumer electronics show Sept. 1 in Berlin that Intel finally unveiled the lineup of chips, which range from low-power processors for fanless, ultra-mobile and two-in-one designs that consume 4.5 watts to chips that consume 91 watts and are aimed at workstations and gaming systems. Eventually the Skylake architecture will find its way into Xeon server processors.
In all, the chip maker is rolling out 48 different chips in its new 6th generation Core family, representing the broadest rollout to date for Intel, according to Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Client Computing Group.
“This is Intel’s best processor ever,” Skaugen said during a press briefing during IDF.
The launch comes at a time when the global PC market continues to struggle. System shipments have declined steadily since 2011, with the rise of mobile devices—in particular, smartphones and tablets—and the lack of interesting new designs among the reasons. There was a slowdown in the decline in 2014 when Microsoft ended support for the Windows XP operating system, but that has run its course, and analysts with IDC and Gartner are expecting 2015 to be another difficult year for the market.
The release of Windows 10 in late July isn’t expected to help much this year, given that Microsoft is offering free upgrades for Windows 7 and 8 systems for the first three months, giving PC users a reason to keep hold of their older systems. However, the analysts also expect momentum to pick up starting next year and into 2017, as systems with the Core chips and Windows 10 make their way into the market and new form factors—such as mini-PCs, two-in-ones and all-in-ones—start catching hold.
Skaugen also noted that there currently are more than 500 million PCs in use today that are four to five years old, and that number goes up to a billion systems that are more than three years old, all of them with slower performance, shorter battery life and other limitations. Many of those users could be tempted to refresh their systems with new ones featuring the products from Intel and Microsoft, he said.
Systems with the new 6th generation chips offer up to 2.5 times the performance, triple the battery life and 30 times better graphics performance than PCs that are five years old, according to Intel officials. They also offer form factors that are half as thin and half the weight, wake up faster and have all-day battery life.
“There has never been a more exciting time to buy a PC,” Skaugen said.
Intel officials are touting what they are calling the “broadest range of designs” for the chips. The company is offering the Y-Series for two-in-ones, detachable systems, tablets and even the company’s Compute Stick. Part of the Y-Series is the Core M processor, which will be divided into three tiers—M3, M5 and M7—based on performance.
The U-Series is aiming at such systems as thin-and-light notebooks and portable all-in-ones, while the H-Series will target everything from mobile workstations to ultra-performance mobile PCs. The S-Series will be for desktops, all-in-ones and mini-PCs.
Intel also is offering a mobile “K” chip that can be unlocked to enable overclocking. The quad-core Core i5 can offer up to 60 percent better mobile multitasking, while the Xeon E3 can power mobile workstations.
Intel Rolls Out Skylake Mobile, Desktop PC Chip Lineup
The Skylake chips are impressive, particularly for what they will enable in mobile systems, according to Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy. With processors that offer twice the performance of current chips and consume only 4.5 watts, Intel is enabling OEMs to build fanless notebooks and two-in-ones that challenge tablets in size and weight while giving the user full PC performance and graphics capabilities to run PC applications, he said.
“Where Intel put its investments is clearly in the low-power notebook,” Moorhead told eWEEK.
Intel also is continuing to bring features to the processors that go beyond performance and power efficiency. For example, the company is introducing the Intel Speed Shift technology that improves the responsiveness in mobile systems by more quickly moving between low-power and full-power states. That capability, which at one time relied on features in the Windows OS, is now based in the chip.
In addition, the chips will enable more systems that use Thunderbolt 3 for USB Type C, which means they will need only a single port. Skylake also means that Intel’s RealSense 3D camera technology will be available in a wide range of systems, from two-in-ones to notebooks to all-in-one desktops. The chips also advance Intel’s vision of a wire-free computing environment, including the use of Intel’s WiDi or Pro WiDi technology, which enables systems to wirelessly detect and link to displays such as a TV, monitor or projector, and wireless charging.
“It’s going to be that simple,” Skaugen said. “A wireless world.”
Intel also worked closely with Microsoft to ensure the chips work with the various features offered in the new operating system. For example, devices that include the RealSense technology can pair the Windows Hello to enable users to securely log into the system using facial recognition. Meanwhile, Intel Security’s True Key technology can enable users to log into devices and Web sites without having to remember a plethora of passwords. Intel officials are pushing to get rid of passwords, with Skaugen noting that the average person has to remember 28 passwords.
Moorhead, of Moor Insights, applauded Intel for its efforts to eliminate passwords, which he said are increasingly insecure—easy to be broken, and subject to human failure or human engineering.
“Now [with Windows 10 and the Skylake chips] you have a secure OS plus secure hardware built in,” he said, adding that the security capabilities may convince many users who have older systems to buy a new one. “They’re now deciding between riding their [older] PC for another year or adopting a brand-new one with hardware and software that is a whole lot more secure.”
Intel officials said that over the next few months, more 6th generation Core chips will be released, including ones with the company’s Iris Pro graphics technology and vPro chips for businesses and enterprises. In addition, Intel will launched its Xeon E3-1500M chip for mobile workstations, and will offer more than 25 products for the Internet of things (IoT) that will have seven-year lifespans and error correcting code (ECC) at different power-consumption levels.