Intel has revealed its new Core M 14nm Broadwell processor range and a stunningly slim 2-in-1 reference design to show it off, a super-skinny 7.2mm thick tablet. The prototype has a 12.5-inch touchscreen but still manages to be fanless, paving the way for Windows 8 powered tablets that can compete with ultrabooks for performance and app flexibility, but at the same time with iPads for weight and bulk.
Intel’s reference design is just 670g in weight; in contrast, the Surface Pro 3 – which has undeniably wowed Windows tablet fans with its slimline construction – is 800g and still uses a fan, though its Core i3/i5/i7 processor range will likely best the Broadwell chip.
Like the Microsoft tablet, Intel’s reference design comes with a removable keyboard for the option of easier text entry. There’s also a media dock; while we’re used to seeing such docks add ports or bigger speakers, Intel’s somewhat unusually includes additional cooling, so that the tablet can deliver an extra jolt of performance for gaming and entertainment.
One interesting possibility is that Microsoft could look to the potent little chip for its much-rumored Surface Mini, which had been expected to be unveiled alongside the Surface Pro 3 last month, but is believed to have been yanked at the last minute.
According to insiders, Microsoft decided that the Qualcomm-powered Windows RT Surface Mini was not sufficiently competitive against other compact tablets, and opted to take things back to the drawing board. Whether that will include switching to a full copy of Windows 8.1 and this new Intel processor remains to be seen.
Intel expects the new Core M Broadwell chips to start showing up in tablets later in the year, saying that “the majority” are expected to be fanless and offer easy 2-in-1 conversion between tablet and laptop form factors.