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Intel's Skylake chips to power PCs as thin as tablets, with big battery boost

The company highlights new Windows 10 devices using its new processors -- including an updated Intel Compute Stick -- during a press conference at the IFA electronics show in Berlin.

Intel's Kirk Skaugen talks up the company's new Skylake processors during an event at IFA in Berlin.

Shara Tibken/CNET

BERLIN -- Intel on Wednesday officially took the wraps off its new Skylake processor family and showed off computers that use the chips.

More than 800 systems will be launching around the world starting Wednesday, said Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's client computing group. He added that Intel has created nearly 50 different processors that will be rolling out over the next few weeks.

"This is Intel's best microprocessor ever," Skaugen said during the company's press conference at the IFA electronics show here.

One new computing device shown by Intel was an updated Intel Compute Stick -- an inexpensive, pocket-size PC that can serve as a media streaming, Web-browsing machine -- that incorporates the company's new Core M chip instead of its less powerful Atom processor. At the higher end, Intel's partners will introduce powerful gaming PCs that use its Core K processors and laptops packing its Xeon chips, normally used in servers.

"This is the most comprehensive lineup of processors for consumer and business use in our history," Skaugen said.

Intel -- which provides the chips that power the vast majority of the world's PCs and servers -- first teased the sixth generation of its Core i-series processors a year ago and officially introduced the chip, known by the codename Skylake, last month. The processors act as the brains of devices, and Intel has focused on reducing power consumption and boosting their capabilities.

Intel and Microsoft hope the combination of the new Windows 10 software and new computers and tablets with the Skylake chips will tempt back users who've deserted the duo, as well as get consumers to upgrade their older computers. There are more than 1 billion computers in use that are more than three years old, and more than half a billion PCs that are four to five years old, Skaugen said. That presents a big opportunity for Intel, Microsoft and their PC maker partners.

"The degree of success for Intel's Skylake will set the direction of the PC industry going forward, so I think this is a big deal for the industry," Moor Insights and Strategy chief analyst Patrick Moorhead said.

Because of Skylake's features, companies will be able to release laptop PCs that are half as thick and half as heavy as those from five years ago, according to Intel, while at the same time enabling double the performance and triple the battery life of computers from 2010. And Intel's also making a push toward " wire-free" computing, with many Skylake systems supporting wireless charging.

Devices purchased today will be compatible with wireless charging, but the capability won't work until late 2016. Buyers of 2-in-1 computers that convert from tablets to PCs will have to purchase compatible wireless charging keyboards.

Skaugen highlighted some features made possible through Windows 10 and the new Skylake processors, including modern standby and "instant go" -- users will be able to start desktop computers in less than half a second. And Intel's RealSense camera can enable consumers to unlock their computers using face and retina recognition, instead of having to enter passwords manually. Skaugen demonstrated the accuracy of the feature by having a set of twins show the computer could tell the difference between them.

Another big push by Intel has been RealSense, the company's camera technology that acts as the eyes and ears of a computing device. Introduced last year and found today in select laptops and tablets, RealSense cameras are capable of measuring depth, recognizing faces and enabling gesture control. Intel believes developers can find many uses for RealSense, including making robots to designing hands-free musical instruments.

RealSense is also a powerful software tool when built into PCs or attached as a peripheral camera, Intel has said., a service owned by retail giant Amazon that helps people stream live video of the games they're playing over the Internet, can use RealSense to quickly capture a player's head and torso. It can then remove the background of the room and overlay the player's image on the corner of the screen, all while displaying the game playing as well.

Skaugen also showed photos of a drone that incorporated Intel's high-end processors and a RealSense camera. In one example, it could be used in places like hotels, with the camera helping it avoid people in the hallways.

"It's a Core i7 machine with RealSense as its eyes to ensure it makes it to the right place and back safely," Skaugen said.

For more IFA 2015, see CNET's full coverage.

Update, 9:45 a.m. and 10 a.m. Berlin time: More details added from press conference.