Intel's third-generation Core processors launched over a month ago, but only the most powerful ones: today, Chipzilla's dual-core and ultra-low voltage (ULV) chips are official, meaning we'll soon start to see mainstream and ultrathin laptops on sale that include the new processors. In fact, Intel says it has a whopping 110 different ultrabooks in the pipeline now, and plans to double the number of qualifying laptops on the market (currently 21) over the course of the next month. Fully 30 of those 110 laptops have touchscreens, and 10 are convertible designs. Some ultrabooks, an Intel rep tells us, will even arrive at that promised $699 price point.

We've discussed the theoretical benefits of Ivy Bridge at length, but while we're on the subject of ultrabooks, Intel has another announcement to share: a revised definition of what it takes to build an ultrabook to begin with. Here's the full list of requirements:

  • Under 18mm thick "for systems with displays less than 14 inches"
  • Under 21mm thick "for displays 14 inches or more"
  • "Wake in a flash" - from S4 suspend to keyboard interaction in less than 7 seconds
  • At least 5 hours of battery life
  • (New) "Responsive while active, meaning they will load and run favorite applications quickly"
  • (New) Either USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt
  • (New) "Come enabled with" Intel Identity Protection and Intel Anti-Theft (excepting certain countries)
  • "Powered by Intel Core processor family for Ultrabook"
  • (Optional) Touchscreens, WiDi, Smart Connect, GPS, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor

Starting with Ivy Bridge, ultrabooks not only need to be thin, have relatively lengthy battery life, and wake rapidly from sleep, they need faster inputs and storage too: Intel is now requiring that new ultrabooks have either USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt ports, and have storage that is "responsive while active," hopefully meaning that we'll see more ultrabooks that are quicker at multitasking. Intel says it will measure responsiveness using PCMark Vantage Storage and Video Editing sub-scores, but wouldn't share a particular threshold beyond which a laptop can pass. Unfortunately, battery life is still measured using MobileMark 2007, which (if you're familiar with typical manufacturer battery life claims) isn't really a good measure of real-world use these days. Importantly, the new requirements only apply to laptops with Ivy Bridge (third-generation) chips. OEMs can still sell existing ultrabooks as ultrabooks so long as they have a last-gen Sandy Bridge processors in them.

So, if you were hoping Intel would hold manufacturers to a higher standard when it comes to the weight, width, price, or screen quality of a laptop, we're afraid you've got another year to wait. Still, an ultrabook sounds a whole lot better than the alternative.

Update: Engadget counts eight new laptop processors in all, including four 17W ULV chips ranging up to the 2GHz Core i7-3667U (it turbos to 3.2GHz) and four standard voltage 35W chips including the 2.9GHz Core i7-3520M, which can reach 3.6GHz. It looks like Core i3 processors won't be updated to Ivy Bridge until Q3 at the earliest, and Celeron will stay on Sandy Bridge for the time being.