Intel ships power-efficient Haswell processors for tablets

Fourth-generation Core i3 processors include a new chip that draws as little as 4.5 watts power in some tablet usage

After promising to bring power-efficient Haswell processors to tablets, Intel has now started shipping new low-power, fourth-generation Core i3 processors, including one that draws as little as 4.5 watts of power in specific usage scenarios.

The dual-core Core i3-4012Y processor is part of a batch of new Haswell processors that could go into fanless tablets and laptop-tablet hybrids, bringing longer battery life to the devices.

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Tablets like Microsoft's Surface Pro that run on Core processors offer great performance but poor battery life. Intel has claimed that, depending on usage, Haswell dual-core chips will offer up to 50 percent more battery life compared to previous Core chips, code-named Ivy Bridge. Intel claims Haswell chips also offer better multimedia performance, but the quality of graphics on the 4.5-watt chip may not be comparable to the more power-hungry chips, which are capable of running more features.

The Core i3-4012Y draws as little as 4.5 watts in specific tablet or mobile usage scenarios, according to Intel's measurements. The measurement comes from what Intel calls SDP (Scenario Design Power), which tracks the usage of power when heat is dissipated in mobile usage scenarios.

The new chip can also be used for laptops, under which it may draw 11.5 watts of power. That measurement is based on the universally accepted TDP (Thermal Design Power), which is widely used to measure power draw on laptops, desktops servers and other hardware.

Intel says the SDP measurement is appropriate in the case of devices like tablets, which have a fundamentally different design and usage compared to regular laptops. However, the SDP measurement has been panned by critics, who said the measurement is more a marketing gimmick than a true benchmark.

The 4.5-watt chip runs at a clock speed of 1.5GHz. Intel has also started shipping the 1.5GHz Core i3-4020Y and the 1.3GHz Core i3-4010Y, which are dual-core processors and draw as little as 6 watts of power under the SDP measurement. All the low-power processors have a TDP of 11.5 watts.

All the new chips have 3MB of cache, 4200-series integrated graphics processors and support low-power DDR3 memory.

The new chips started shipping ahead of the Intel Developer Forum starting Tuesday in San Francisco, where the chip maker will focus on mobile products. The company is expected to launch new Atom chips code-named Bay Trail for tablets at the show.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's email address is agam_shah@idg.com.

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