Core M: Intel's best weapon against ARM

It's not exactly a secret that laptop sales have been in a slump in the last few years, nor is it a mystery. Tablets have replaced laptops in many use scenarios because they were thinner and lighter than a laptop could ever be. Windows 8 stinking up the joint and an economy stuck in the doldrums didn't help.

Intel has taken it on the chin for this, even though the problem really isn't entirely Intel's. Yes, it could have had a better tablet chip, but you also have to take into account tablets had definite appeal in certain cases, and also they were the shiny new thing.

While Intel continues to push on Atom, it's also coming at ARM from above, as it were, with the Core M. Originally codenamed "Broadwell Y," it's a low-power Broadwell generation chip that can give ARM a major fight on the high end of performance.

The Core M is a dual-core processor with a much smaller die area than the previous generation of Haswell processors. That's because Haswell was a 22nm processor while Broadwell is 14nm. Yet at the same time, Intel has beefed up the GPU for better graphics performance and added a small L3 cache.

Intel claims that while Broadwell is the same microarchitecture as Haswell, it boosted performance by up to 82% for video conversion, 47% for 3D graphics, 19% for office productivity, and about 12% for using Web applications when at the same clock speed. It also claims anywhere from 54 to 103 minutes of extended battery life.

It's leading to some pretty sleek notebooks. Dell announced the Latitude 13 7000, a two-in-one that weighs just 1.9 pounds when used as a tablet, and that's with a 13.3-inch screen. As a PC it's 3.7 pounds and comes with 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD drive and Wi-Fi only connectivity. There is no Ethernet port.

Also, Asus announced its Zenbook UX305, which it claims to be the world's slimmest 13.3-inch QHD+ laptop at just 12mm thin. It weighs just 2.65 pounds, but it's not a two-in-one, just an ultrabook. It also comes with 8GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage and Wi-Fi connectivity. Where the Zenbook UX305 excels is it has a 13.3-inch display with an insane resolution of 3200x1800, which is 276 ppi.

What remains to be seen is the benchmarks. The testers – Tom's Hardware Guide, Anandtech, etc. – have to get their hands on these devices and put them through their paces. For now it looks like Intel has finally come back with something potent, and coupled with encouraging signs with Windows 9, PC sales might finally start moving in the up direction.

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