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Will Intel dominate the ultra portable sector in the next year?

It is no secret, Intel have been making plans to take on ARM at their own game. Low power demands in the ultra portable sector, Kitguru has covered several articles on the subject but we ponder again. Are Intel able to take a significant market share from the successful British ARM chipmaker?

The head honchos at ARM have said they fear nothing from Intel’s reinvigorated focus on this sector, but we imagine that behind closed doors there is more than a little perspiration on quivering lips.

Intel are releasing new low voltage chips to specifically target the ultra light, ultra portable market being classed as ‘ultrabooks’. Yes, just what we need, another term to try and remember when discussing laptops, netbooks and … super portables.

So far Intel have promoted the ATOM chips and if we are being honest, while sales are good, the critical audience hasn’t warmed to them, and the enthusiast public feel they are too sluggish for anything even semi serious. With AMD’s Fusion chips dominating the benchmarks already and ARM still having control over the power consumption, what is the next move?

Intel are refocusing on portable Sandybridge processors rather than the limp ATOM, while still ensuring good battery life. Portable CPU performance is likely to never match the desktop sector, but with more power than ATOM but with efficient power consumption it seems a strong move. The selling point is to keep the machines to under one inch thick. Pricing is set to be $1,000, or in close proximity anyway.

At this price, Intel have had to make some compromises. The new chips run slower and have up to half the power consumption – meaning demands of around 17 watts rather than 35 watts. The three latest processors are all dual core, with onboard graphics capabilities. They are the Core i5-2557M, Core i7-2637M and 1.8ghz Core i7-2677M.

We recently received press information on the upcoming Asus UX21 (above), which looks to be a straight out attack on the Macbook Air. It is going to be only 0.7 inches thick with a 64gb or 128GB Solid state drive. Like the latest MacBook air, it resumes from sleep quicker than you can say ‘holy crap batman’ (a few seconds). Release date is only a few months away, however by then Apple will have their new Macbook Air on the market with Sandybridge technology, so it will be interesting to see how this battle plays out.

This is only the beginning for Intel as they are on the constant lookout for ways to reduce power while maintaining good performance. Ivy Bridge, the first 22nm processors are due out in the coming future, with Haswell scheduled for a 2013 release. Power will reduce even more, some say down to 12watts.

Kitguru says: This is only the start of the battle, because Intel are firmly lining up the tablet and smartphone market for world dominance. Can they get their chips into the iPad?

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