The larger motherboard is what powers a 2014 MacBook Air. The smaller one, based on Intel’s Core M chip provides the same performance in a much smaller footprint.

Image: Mashable, Christina Ascani
By Pete Pachal2014-09-05 16:14:56 UTC

Over the past few years, laptop have gotten much thinner and lighter — but not much quieter. Whether you have an ultra-thin design or something bulkier, the whirring fan has been a computer owner’s constant companion, turning on whenever you start to tax the processor even a little bit outside its comfort zone.

Intel is attacking this problem head-on with its Core M processor, which allows PC and tablet manufacturers to build products with laptop performance in a thin and fanless form factor.

The photo above shows the motherboard for a MacBook Air underneath a motherboard with the same performance, but built around a Core M chip. Not only will the new chips let laptops and tablets get even thinner, but they’ll have twice the performance, Intel says. Reps from the company showed Mashable a 12-inch prototype Windows tablet thinner than an iPad Air, but with twice the performance, they added.

The Core M bridges the gap between the company’s line of Atom processors, which are used in mobile devices, and the main Core line — the high-power chips that you’d find in laptops and some tablets. Previously, Intel provided lower-power Core chips for ultra-thin designs; Core M replaces that line.

Core M can run faster without getting too hot, thanks to Intel’s 14-nanometer chip technology (Moore’s Law hasn’t quit just yet). Whereas the previous low-power Core chips ran at 11.5 watts, Core M runs at 4.5 — a significant decrease, and without any reduction in performance.

Intel Core M design

With an Intel Core M processor, the tablet on the right has even better performance than the laptop on the left, which was state-of-the-art four years ago.

Image: Mashable, Christina Ascani

Intel says the Core M is targeted at the “high end” of the tablet market as well as Ultrabooks. Many manufacturers have already unveiled products built around Core M at IFA, including the Asus Zenbook UX305, the HP Envy x2 and the new Lenovo ThinkPad Helix. Intel says more than 20 Core M-based products are in the works, many to be unveiled in the coming months and early next year.

While some PCs and tablets with power demands will always require a fan (the Microsoft Surface Pro, which prioritizes productivity above all else, will likely stick with a full Core chip), the Core M can take over a significant part of the market. And that whirring fan you hear whenever you fire up multiple dynamic browser tabs may finally start to shut up.

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