Intel claims Haswell will offer 50 percent more battery life

The new processor design is important for PC makers as they try to battle tablets and smartphones

Intel's upcoming family of Core processors, code-named Haswell, will offer 50 percent more battery life in laptops than did their "Ivy Bridge" predecessors, Intel said on Thursday.

Haswell chips were designed with laptops and tablets in mind, and the main focus was on lowering power consumption, said Rani Borkar [CQ], corporate vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, in a media briefing.

The longer battery life won't come with a cost to performance, according to Borkar. And in idle or standby mode the chips will do even better, extending battery life by up to 20 times, she said.

The improvements are vital for Intel and its PC-making partners. PC sales are in one of their worst slumps ever, with users snapping up tablets and smartphones instead for mobile computing. Any improvements Intel can offer will help keep the PC market afloat.

Intel is expected to launch the new chips at the Computex trade show in Taipei next month. Haswell represents an update to Intel's instruction set architecture, something it delivers every two years.

Intel has been talking up Haswell's improvements for months. It says they'll also double the graphics performance in laptops and triple it in desktops.

The chips are intended partly to bridge the gap between laptops and tablets, by offering longer battery life and optional detachable touchscreens and keyboards. PC makers like Asus and Acer are expected to show at Computex what they've managed to achieve with Haswell, including hybrid devices with screens that detach or fold back to make a tablet.

Intel has geared some of the Haswell chips towards tablet use as well, by reducing the power consumption of some parts to as low as 7 watts. The previous low for some of the Ivy Bridge chips was 10 watts. A tablet with a Core processor will offer similar battery life to a non-Intel tablet but more performance than a "content consumption" device, Borkar said.

Haswell chips achieve their low power consumption partly from an on-chip power management unit, which provides a "bird's eye view" of energy consumption in the processor. It can dynamically adjust the power consumption in various parts of the chip to reduce the overall power draw.

Voltage regulators have been consolidated, another step to reduce power consumption, and one that also allows smaller Haswell motherboards, so computers can be made smaller. And Intel says a type of memory called embedded DRAM reduces the cost of building devices.

Faster interconnects on the chip also shave off some power use, according to Intel, because data is transferred more quickly, which means the processor cores can spend less time working.

Intel is expected to lift the curtain on Haswell and some of the laptops built with it at a press conference in Taipei on June 4.

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

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