Two of tech's biggest rivals are working together to make powerful laptops thinner than the MacBook Air

  • Intel and AMD are rivaling semi-conductor chip companies, but they’re partnering to make a new kind of chip.
  • The new chip will have a built-in graphics processor.
  • It will allow the power of thick, heavy, powerful laptops in a design thinner than the MacBook Air.
  • Few details exist, but it could mean the advent of truly all-in-one laptops.

Electronic chip manufacturer rivals Intel and AMD are are teaming up to make chips that will give thin laptops an unprecedented power boost, Intel announced on Monday in a press release.

Intel and AMD’s chips will combine an Intel processor (CPU) and custom AMD graphics processor (GPU) in a smaller package that exists today that will allow for thinner, lighter laptop designs while maintaining the power of thicker, heavier laptops.

Alienware 17 gaming laptopYouTube/Linus Tech TipsPowerful laptops like this Alienware model are traditionally thick and heavy, but Intel and AMD’s new chip could change that.

For the uninitiated, the CPU is a computer’s brain that “processes” everything you do. The more powerful the CPU, the faster it can load and run software and operating systems. The GPU processes graphics that you see on the screen. Most thin and light laptops only have a CPU, as they can handle basic graphics pretty well, but GPUs are required for more power-hungry tasks, like gaming or video editing.

Indeed, Intel and AMD’s chips are less than half the size of the current CPU/GPU layout found in today’s powerful laptops, according to vice president of Intel’s Client Computing Group, Chris Walker. In laptop design, that’s a significant advancement.

Intel amd cpu gpuIntel CorporationThe traditional CPU and GPU design in a laptop (left) versus Intel and AMD’s new chip design (right).

It means that powerful laptops that used to be about 26mm thick can be reduced down to 16mm, and even an incredible 11mm, which is thinner than the MacBook Air’s 17mm thickness at its thickest point.

In turn, that means upcoming laptops could truly be portable all-in-one solutions. Those who need powerful and portable computers have been limited to thick, heavy machines, which aren’t ideal for mobility. Imagine having a device as light and portable as the MacBook Air for both casual work, like writing an email, as well as editing and rendering a high-resolution video, or even playing power-hungry video games.

Not only that, but a smaller combined chipset makes room for laptop makers like Dell, HP, and even Apple — should they adopt the new chip design — to add more features or add more battery capacity for better battery lives.

It’s still unclear how powerful Intel and AMD’s new chips will be, but we can get an idea based on their potential pricing. Laptops that run on Intel and AMD’s new chip will sell in the “neighbourhood of $US1,200 to $US1,400 apiece,” according to PCWorld. That’s in the ballpark of lower-end gaming PCs, which usually include GPUs and are typically thick and heavy. Don’t be fooled by the term “lower-end,” however, as even low-end gaming laptops with GPUs can have significantly more power than thinner laptops without GPUs.

Intel and AMD’s chip will be part of Intel’s 8th generation of Core processors, but it’s still unclear when we’ll start to see laptops running on the new chip.

The news of two rivaling chip companies working together comes at an interesting time, as chip maker Broadcom has put forward a $US130 billion offer to buy its rival, Qualcomm.

Walker said in the press release that the new chip design is a “great example of how we [Intel and AMD] can compete and work together, ultimately delivering innovation that is good for consumers.”

Get the latest Intel stock price here.

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