CES 2015: Intel unveils new Broadwell chips bound for MacBook Pros and that rumored Retina Air

Intel Broadwell-U Iris 6100 image 001

Monday, chip giant Intel took the wraps off a range of “Broadwell-U” processors poised to find their way into a MacBook near you. The fifth-generation Intel Core processor family utilities Intel’s 14-nanometer manufacturing process to deliver more speed and lower power consumption.

The new chips could possibly pave the way to a rumored MacBook Air model with a Retina display measuring twelve inches diagonally (the current Air models come in 11.6 and 13.3-inch varieties).

Featuring an improved Iris 6100 integrated graphics, the new chips feature pin and architecture compatibility with the existing Haswell-U equivalent design while packing 35 percent more transistors into a die area 37 percent smaller than their Haswell-based predecessors.

The 24 percent better performance from the integrated graphics should benefit Intel’s RealSense and Wireless Display (aka Intel WiDi) technology, voice assistants, games and more.

Intel is also touting a 50 percent speed-up in video conversion and said that every chip will support 4K Ultra HD displays. All that oomph should not affect battery life. Matter of fact, Intel claims notebooks with Broadwell-U processors should see battery life increased by up to 1.5 hours over those with Haswell-based processors.

The lineup includes four 28-watt processors from Celeron to Core i7, ranging from 2.5 GHz to 3.1 GHz and using 12 to 48 ­execution units for the integrated graphics.

  • 28W with GT3, Iris 6100 Graphics (48 execution units)
  • 15W with GT3, HD 6000 Graphics (48 execution units)
  • 15W with GT2, HD 5500 Graphics (23 execution units for low i3, 24 for others)
  • 15W with GT1, HD (Broadwell) Graphics (12 execution units)

Apple’s Retina MacBooks use Iris graphics so the aforementioned processors are likely candidates for an early-2015 MacBook Pro refresh.

AnandTech explains that the lineup includes four different 15-watt Broadwell-U chips running HD 6000 graphics each that seem like a fir for the MacBook Air.

Intel Broadwell-U graphics upgrade image 001

Clock frequencies of those chips range from 1.6 GHz to 2.2 GHz versus the 1.4 GHz and 1.7 GHz chips powering the current MacBook Air lineup. The new chips are now shipping to computer vendors which are expected to release their Broadwell-U enhanced notebooks before February 2015.

Aside from the new Broadwell-U processors, Intel also started shipping a new 14nm “Cherry Trail” system-on-a-chip for tablets. The architecture, Intel claims, will offer new user experiences such as Intel RealSense technology, no wires, no password and Intel Context Aware technology capabilities.

Tablets based on “Cherry Trail” will be introduced starting in the first half of 2015, said the chip giant.

Apple’s rumored MacBook Air upgrade with a 12-inch Retina display is said to feature an even thinner appearance and fanless design, mainly owing to advances in Intel’s microprocessor technology.

The Ativ Book 9, which Samsung announced ahead of CES 2015, is among the first notebooks running a Broadwell-U chip. Featuring fanless design, the forthcoming notebook sports a 12.2-inch screen with a 2,600-by-1,600 resolution.

MacBook Air 2014

13.3-inch MacBook Airs currently top out at 1,440-by-900 pixels. According to the latest scuttlebutt, a Retina-enabled MacBook Air should being production in the first quarter of this year.

[Intel PR, Fact Sheet PDF]