Even before Haswell's 10W ULV run sometime by mid 2013, Intel will have a limited SKU set of 10W ULV Ivy Bridge processors, likely under the Core i3 moniker. One step below the 17W UltraBook level, and one step above typical tablet ARM/Atom processors, can these CPUs power a super-tablet running a full Windows or Linux OS rather than Android or Windows RT?
As you can read around the Web, Intel is further reducing the TDP goal for the lowest-power ULV version of their next generation Haswell processor in 2013. While the current Ivy Bridge ULV grade is at 17 Watts, seen in most Ultrabooks as well as energy efficient Xeon E3 mini-servers, Haswell was supposed to bring that down to 15 W. Well, not anymore – the new target is 10 Watts TDP. And, not only that – there'll be at least one special limited-run SKU of Ivy Bridge CPU around the New Year time, which will also be set at 10 W.
Even if that Ivy Bridge is another say 20% slower than the current 17 W parts, it'll still be considerably faster, in both CPU and GPU departments, not to mention memory bandwidth, than any current Atom or most ARM processors for tablets. After all, it could still have dual channel DDR3L-1600 memory, for instance - something that no Atom or ARM can dream of. Could we make an uber-tablet out of it?
Well, one would say, 10 W is still too much, and even Intel isn't advocating this yet as a tablet processor, more a sort of an Ultrabook convertible with touchscreen. So, could we still make that uber-tablet?
I think yes – remember, it's not just the CPU there, but the display, storage, and other circuitry. If we were to use 4 Gbit DDR3L dies, and put up 8 of them for 4 GB RAM on board, and integrate a 64 GB direct ONFI flash storage, expandable via MicroSD, instead of a full fledged SSD, then add a 1920×1200 or even 2560×1600 retina tablet display which Ivy Bridge graphics can support anyway, these other components would far outweigh the CPU alone in the power department anyway. Microsoft Surface Pro or an X86-based followon to Asus Transformer Infinity, could be just such products in early 2013.
Benefits compared to the usual ARM tablets? Well, you could run 64-bit Windoze 7 or 8, at full speed, with all the usual PC apps, rather than relying on a 'restricted' OS of sorts, and, if adding a keyboard like in the Asus docking case, it'd be a nice alternative even to Ultrabooks. And, yes, good performance, until of course the next ARM generation props up – that same year as well, and with 64-bitness added to boot.