Sunday, May 2, 2010

Intel introducing Core i5, faster Core i7 ULV processors for ultra-portable laptops soon?

If ultra-thin laptops are going to move to the mainstream and do more than elicit “oohs” and “aahs” at how slim they are, they must continue to improve their performance. Svelte style is all well and good until you can’t do what you need to do because your laptop doesn’t have the horsepower for serious work. Intel has started introducing its Core i7 ULV (ultra-low voltage) mobile processors that a few portables are becoming equipped with (like the Fujitsu LifeBook P770), and now rumors are surfacing that it plans to expand these offerings in the coming months.

Currently, the i7-620UM and the i7-640UM are available, running at 1.06GHz and 1.2GHz, respectively. But it looks like Intel will add a faster processor in summer and then another in the fall, both of which will be able to reach speeds of 2.4GHz and 2.53GHz when using the Turbo Boost mode. Can that be enough oomph to provide solid, everyday performance while keeping battery life in the several-hours range?

Needless to say, those new i7 CPUs will help to keep the high prices affixed to the super-slim systems using them (the LifeBook P770, for instance, costs over $1,500 at However, the chip giant also appears to be readying a Core i5 ULV part in the next couple of months, which will provide lesser performance than its i7 siblings, but could lead to sub-$1,000 price on these laptops. MSI has already told Engadget that the i5-520UM will be featured in its X360 by June, and the system will cost between $700-$900.

If machines like the X360 and Acer’s new TimelineX series can deliver performance comparable to bigger laptops in their price range (and not like their Core 2 Solo and Core 2 Duo ULV predecessors), there may be hope for ultra-portables yet. Would a 12- or 13-inch laptop under an inch thick, less than $1,000, and freed from being underpowered entice you to buy one? Let us know in the TalkBack section.

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