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Intel’s 5th Gen Core processors are finally, really here

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Better graphics and much better battery life are leading to the best laptops we've yet seen

The Broadwell codename has been on Intel's lips for many months now. The big chipmaker's move to 14nm production has proven bumpy and delayed the anticipated launch of its latest processor family, but today all those delays come to an end and the 5th generation of Core processors are ready to roll out in actual computers you can buy.

Power consumption keeps dropping, power production keeps increasing

Promising battery life improvements between 20 and 30 percent relative to current Haswell chips, the typical 15W Broadwell CPU will last an average of 90 minutes longer than its predecessor when playing back video. The first members of the Broadwell family were announced last year under the Core M brand, but Intel's Kirk Skaugen describes them as geared specifically to address the category of 2-in-1 devices: ones that are neither tablets nor laptops, but a unique combination of the two.

Today, Intel is adding 14 new processors under its Core i3, i5, and i7 designations while also expanding its Pentium and Celeron ranges with new models as well. This is the first time in the company's history that it's refreshing every segment of its consumer CPU lineup at the same time. Frankly, even the already announced Core M devices haven't shipped out in massive volumes, so Broadwell's day zero is really and truly today.

So what should we expect from Intel's new chips? All the usual improvements are present. The die size has shrunken by 37 percent, but it now fits 35 percent more transistors, for a total of 1.3 billion. According to Intel, 3D graphics rendering has improved by as much as 22 percent, while performance in its traditional strength of video encoding has leapt up by 50 percent. The graphics portion of the chip has gotten a boost and Intel's WiDi wireless streaming option can now stream full 4K video.

Stay tuned to CES, the best is yet to come

More important than any of the spec bumps, however, are the machines that these new Broadwell chips are making possible. I saw a selection of them in a preview hosted by Intel on Sunday and there are a couple that will be introduced later this week that are truly impressive. Taken together with the Transformer Book Chi and Ativ Book 9 already announced by Asus and Samsung, respectively, this batch of new computers is set to revitalize the laptop market in a big way. And yes, despite the comprehensive nature of Intel's upgrades with Broadwell, the focus remains strongly on power efficiency and ensuring maximum mobility. This is not the next big thing for desktop gamers, although Intel still sees plenty of potential to find willing upgraders, citing a captive market of over 600 million PCs that haven't been upgraded in the past four years or more.

Intel anticipates laptops, 2-in-1s, tablets, convertibles, and a number of power-sipping desktop PCs with Broadwell inside to start making their way into retail channels very soon. The company has been shipping its 5th Gen Core chips out in volume for a few months now and its hardware partners are ready to finally release their long-promised next-gen machines. The wait has been long, but on the evidence of the new computers arriving at CES, it looks to have been worth it.

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