Intel's Impossibly Tiny Chip That Will Allow Super-Thin Laptops Has Finally Arrived

Intel ceo brian krzanich at ces 2014APIntel CEO Brian Krzanich

After a number of delays, Intel has finally started shipping its fifth-generation core processor, codenamed “Broadwell-U,” the company announced on Monday at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The new Broadwell chips are extremely small processors that offer better performance than the previous “Haswell” chips.

Broadwell brings down the size of the chips’ transistors from 22 nanometres (nm) to 14 nm. To give you an idea how small that is, a human hair is about 80,000 nanometres thick.

Intel claims this smaller size will lead to big gains in battery life — “up to 1.5 hours,” says the company — plus better performance, faster start times, and so on.

The smaller design also allows for the production of super-slim devices, such as Samsung’s new laptop that’s about half an inch thick (the Macbook Air is 0.68 inch thick). Intel says the chips will be applied across a broad range of devices, from 2-in-1 tablet/notebooks, Chromebooks, and mini PCs.

Laptops with the first version of Broadwell started shipping in September, but those were mostly for combination laptop-tablet devices, and didn’t ship in huge volumes. So today is really the beginning of the Broadwell generation of computers.

Intel has been investing billions in R&D to manufacture next generation processors. It promises to further shrink the chips to 7nm.

Here’s how the new Broadwell chip compares with its last processor, Haswell:

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