A peek at Intel chip headed to Ultrabooks

Intel's "Haswell" chip will likely power future MacBooks and Ultrabooks and squeeze in even more performance into sub-one-inch laptops as well as tablets.

Imagine future MacBook Pros (or whatever Apple brands the larger MacBooks is in 2013) as thin as a MacBook Air but more powerful than todays' MBP.
Imagine future MacBook Pros (or whatever Apple brands the larger MacBooks is in 2013) as thin as a MacBook Air but more powerful than todays' MBP. Apple

More details have emerged on Intel's first system-on-a-chip for mainstream PCs.

The Haswell chip for Ultrabooks will put everything in one chip package.  All of that functionality now requires at least two separate chip packages.
The Haswell chip for Ultrabooks will put everything in one chip package. All of that functionality now requires at least two separate chip packages. Chiphell

That chip, codenamed Haswell, is due by 2013 and will be the first high-performance Intel processor to approach the same level of integration used in smartphones and tablets. Today, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, and Nvidia are the major suppliers of smartphone and tablet SoCs (system-on-a-chip) derived from the ARM design.

What does Haswell mean for future Macs and PCs? Even more powerful ultraslim MacBooks and laptop PCs will emerge--as well as hybrid laptop-tablet designs.

Imagine, for example, a future 15-inch MacBook Pro as skinny as a MacBook Air but faster than a high-end MBP today. And Windows 8 Haswell-based Ultrabooks from Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, Acer, and others.

Slides leaked at Chiphell via VR-Zone spell out the nuts and bolts of the Haswell design. We'll focus on the design for laptops here.

Technically, an SoC puts everything on one piece of silicon. Haswell puts two chips into one chip package (see slide above). So Intel's chip would technically be a System in Package. But inside a Mac or PC it would appear as one chip. And what constitutes a true SoC is murky anyway, as the SoCs in smartphones sometimes rely on separate chips to implement various functions like 3G or touch-screen controllers.

Key Haswell features:

  • The core of a PC and Mac in one chip package.
  • Next Intel "tock" or chip architecture. Follows 2012's "Ivy Bridge" in 2013.
  • Faster graphics: codenamed GT3. Graphics is now a major focus at Intel.
  • 3D transistors based on Intel's 22-nanometer process.
  • Better total power efficiency than the most power efficient Intel Core chips today.
  • Lower power memory: DDR3L.
  • Support for USB 3.0 and DirectX 11? We know Ivy Bridge will.
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