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Get ready for a flood of Intel-powered PCs with long battery life

Acer, Asus, Lenovo, MSI and Razer plan to show off Project Athena laptops at IFA in Berlin.

Laptops from companies like Dell have been certified as Project Athena, which means they have long battery life and meet other requirements set by Intel.
Sarah Tew

A wave of Intel-powered laptops are about to get thinner, lighter -- and a lot more power efficient. 

This week at the IFA electronics trade show in Berlin, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, MSI and Razer plan to unveil new laptops using Intel's Comet Lake 10th-generation Core processors. Some of those devices will meet Intel's new Project Athena requirements, designing computers to be even more mobile. Details on the new PCs will roll out over the coming days, Intel said.

The Santa Clara, California, chipmaker first talked about Project Athena at Computex in May. The aim of the program is to make PCs even more mobile, like smartphones. People spend an increasing amount of time on their phones and less time on their PCs, and they're holding onto computers for much longer than their smartphones. The answer for Microsoft and traditional PC makers has been to turn computers into something more like phones. They've been working with Qualcomm on such devices for a couple of years, and now Intel, the world's biggest PC chipmaker -- is jumping into the fray. 

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As CNET's Stephen Shankland put it, Intel wants us to "love our laptops the way we love our phones."

Machines designed through Project Athena are supposed to be different. They're meant to wake instantly, sport brighter screens for outdoor use and have battery life that lasts all day. Project Athena laptops also need to be able to complete a biometric login process in a second or less after a laptop lid is opened, and Athena gets an additional second to connect to Wi-Fi.

They're initially going to be pricey laptops, but the features should eventually make their way to less-expensive devices, as well, Intel said. Many of the first devices are older designs with Intel's new Comet Lake chips inside

"What Intel wants to do with Project Athena is really drive a wider range of products to hit those thinner designs, longer battery life and better performance numbers," Technalysis Research analyst Bob O'Donnell said. 

Battling Snapdragon PCs

Intel's move comes partly in response to an effort by chip rival Qualcomm to build something similar. The company started working with Microsoft and PC makers about two years ago to develop computers that use its Snapdragon processor and seamlessly convert between laptops and tablets. They typically have 4G connectivity and batteries that last the entire day. Companies like Lenovo and HP have released Snapdragon-powered laptops.

The latest Snapdragon 8cx-powered Windows PC is Samsung's Galaxy Book S, which the company unveiled last month at its Unpacked event in New York. The LTE-enabled device, which CNET reviewer Josh Goldman called "insanely thin," has 23 hours of battery life and will cost $999 when it arrives this month. 

"It looks like a laptop, and it's got the essence of a smartphone, the best of both worlds," Hassan Anjum, Samsung director of product strategy and marketing, said at the Galaxy Book S launch. "You have the freedom to work anywhere, anytime."

By comparison, with Project Athena, laptops have to have "real world" battery life -- like web browsing -- of at least nine hours, and charging the devices for half an hour should add four additional hours of battery life.

Already, several machines from Dell, HP and Lenovo have been certified as Project Athena compatible. Those are the Dell Inspiron 14 5000, Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1, Dell XPS 13 2- in-1, HP EliteBook x360 1040, HP EliteBook x360 1030 G4, HP EliteBook x360 830 and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon.  

Intel said devices that meet its Project Athena requirements will feature "Engineered for Mobile Performance" marketing.