Intel Ivy Bridge Processors Designed for Retina Display Macs and Windows 8 Tablets?

By Jonathan Charles | Apr 18, 2012 12:10 PM EDT

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Intel is looking to implement Ivy Bridge architecture into Macs equipped with Retina Display, as well as high-performance Windows 8 tablets. While not guaranteed, Intel hopes the tablets will implement Ivy Bridge.

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At the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in Beijing, Intel showed a slide where gaming controllers are attached to both sides of a tablet and another tablet with a keyboard attached.

Intel said the tablets would provide "leading performance." The devices could have processors with up to four GPUs, "low-power memory" and other features to extend battery life. Intel's tablet strategy has been based around low-power Atom chips.

Intel Vice President Kirk Skaugen said the upcoming Ivy Bridge processors are "Retina display capable if [their] OEMs choose to deliver on that." The new processors, Skaugen noted, will be able to power a resolution of 2560 x 1600, or four times that of the current 13-inch MacBook Pro lineup (check out Skaugen's 'Transforming the PC Experience' presentation, especially around the 14 mark). According to the latest reports, the current MacBook Pro is due for a refresh within the next few months.

The upcoming Ivy Bridge processors have largely been targeted at ultrabooks, which are ultra-thin and ultra-light laptops. Intel is pushing ultrabooks as an alternative to laptops, as users can consume and create content. The chip maker unveiled the Letexo or 'Cove Point' at IDF 2012, which combines a laptop and tablet into one device.

Intel has code-named the Ivy Bridge tablet platform 'Chief River,' which is also the code name for the ultrabook platform. Chief River supports USB 3.0, and could bring Thunderbolt ports - used in MacBook Pro's from early 2011 - to tablets.

Ivy Bridge tablets could be similar in specs to ultrabooks, Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research, said.

"You are look at an evolutionary step. Particularly in the x86 space, the evolution is more convertible-type design where the keyboard is an optional piece," McCarron said.

McCarron added that tablets may appeal to consumers who need a Core processor. PCWorld noted tablet use is rising in enterprise, and some customers want high-performance devices without a built-in keyboard.

Most tables are currently shipping with ARM chipsets. Analysts said ARM offers better power consumption, but Intel is better on "raw performance."

"They [Intel] are going after every angle they can to get a foothold in the market," Jim McGregor, an independent chip analyst, added. He said Intel may be looking to use Ivy Bridge chipsets to disrupt ARM's dominance.

Intel is working with Microsoft and Google on tablets. Ivy Bridge processors offer higher performance, which may be relevant for some productivity applications.

(reported by Jonathan Charles, edited by Dave Clark)


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