It's always a bit hard to tell just from gazing at CPU specs what exactly we'll see in coming laptops, but Intel's leaked road map of upcoming laptop processors, which provides information on products through 2011, does provide a few hints and interesting notes.
Intel's various geographic code names and ultra-detailed spec charts can get a little sleep-inducing for the average consumer. To boil it down, here are the points that seem most eye-opening, and that could truly pave the way for some cooler laptops down the road.
Things to be excited about in 2010:
- Dual-core Atom Netbooks: We reviewed a dual-core Atom Netbook last year, the Asus EeePC 1201N, that had better performance at the expense of hotter temperatures and shorter battery life. Intel's new dual-core Atom N-series processors, also blogged about over the weekend, should be ready by this holiday season and could provide a lot better battery life and cooler operating temperatures. They also might become a lot more prominent than the few hard-to-find models we've seen.
- Faster Core i5 and i7 processors, faster laptops: We haven't been disappointed by any Core i7 laptops thus far, but they look ready to get even more powerful this year. The quad-core i7-740QM and 840QM have turbo-boosted speeds up to 2.93GHz and 3.2GHz respectively, and new dual-core i5 and i7 CPUs will operate at turbo-boosted speeds up to 3.4GHz.
- Lots of low-voltage laptops: Those "ultrathin" laptops we've seen and that Intel has been touting will have a number of ultra-low-voltage CPU options, it seems. There are a number of Core i5 and i7 ULV processors, whereas last generation's laptops, such as the ThinkPad Edge, only had a handful of ULV processors, most notably the Core 2 Duo SU7300.
- Improved battery life: The "Huron River" platform, which is what Intel calls the new laptop CPUs it's planning for 2011, will have power management good enough to "play two Blu-ray discs" on a single charge. While that may not be on your agenda specifically, it sounds like a promise to finally deliver across-the-board media playback without any users freaking out over what percentage their battery is at.
- Better integrated graphics: It's no secret that Intel's integrated HD graphics in its new Core i3, i5 and i7 processors are good enough for video playback, but not for any gaming. The "Sandy Bridge" graphics platform coming next promises improvements, though it's still not clear whether it will be enough for games.
- Bluetooth, Wi-Di: Intel's Wireless Display technology is a nice idea that we've seen implemented in several laptops this year. It transmits audio and video to any TV with a converter box, but right now you still need a Wi-Di-capable notebook. It looks like 2011's Intel laptops may support it across the board. The same might be true for Bluetooth, with "planned support for Intel's first Wi-Fi + BT combo." We still see plenty of retail laptops that leave Bluetooth out to save a buck or two; hopefully that day will end in 2011.