Slim is in with Intel’s Kaby Lake

Intel's Kaby Lake processor

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the thinnest of them all?

The HP Spectre 13
The HP Spectre 13. Source: The HP online store

Back in July, the world’s thinnest laptop was launched in Dubai to much fanfare and a tie-up with four leading designers. The HP Spectre 13 was pitched as a fashion product that oozes style and a “design that defines class” without compromising on performance. The message was — you were not buying just another workhorse laptop, but a piece of jewellery.

For a region with a penchant for expensive fashion statements, the HP Spectre should fit right in. Thought it won’t be able to hold on to the crown of being the thinnest for long. At the ongoing IFA 2016, Acer announced the Swift 7 — at 9.98 mm, it ‘out-thins’ the HP Spectre’s 10.4 mm girth.

The Acer Swift 7. Source: ArsTechnica.com
The Acer Swift 7. Source: ArsTechnica.com

And this is just the beginning. We predict an Anorexia War with manufacturers outing the world’s thinnest laptop, only to be toppled over a few weeks later by another brand. Even Apple is expected to join this ‘thin is in’ ruckus with its upcoming MacBook Air.

But why this sudden rush to slim down a product line that has been doing fine with a few extra mm of flab? Well, apart from being something to brag about, a key reason is that it is now technically possible to slim it down, without major compromises. The thickness of a laptop mainly comes from the processor and the need to keep it cooled down with fans or heat sinks – so that it does not set your pants on fire.

Kaby Lake processor
Kaby Lake processor. Source: Intel

But Intel has made significant improvements on the heat front with its 7th-generation Kaby Lake processors. In a recent announcement, the company pointed out that the new processors will allow for laptops that are “thinner than 10 mm”. Apparently, more than 100 new designs from various PC manufacturers are currently in the pipeline, and Kaby Lake-powered laptops will start shipping as early as this month. So if you are headed to Dubai Mall to pick up the slimmest laptop money can buy, well, you might at least want to wait until IFA is over and you have read through GNTECH’s round-up of upcoming laptops. Some are even better-looking than the HP Spectre.

And it is not slimness that you will be getting. Kaby Lake is a 14nm processor that Intel claims is 10 times more efficient at performance per watt when compared to the first gen Core processor — it sips only 4.5W instead of 18W. Overall, Intel claims its new processors deliver up to 12 per cent faster productivity performance, and up to 19 per cent faster web performance over its previous 6th-gen Skylake processors. This will pave the way for hybrids, ultra-thins and laptops that run longer before needing to be plugged in. Also expect the upcoming wave to be lighter, since a smaller battery can be packed in and still deliver comparable uptime.

Another key highlight is improvements in the delivery of multiple 4K streams and virtual reality videos — this typically needs beefy CPUs or dedicated GPUs. But with Kaby Lake, you should get smoother playback without the laptop heating up too much from all the extra processing. Also, if you are a video editor, you will have “the power to create, edit and share 4K UHD and 360-degree clips up to 15 times faster than on a 5-year-old PC”. Similarly, gamers will apparently see a threefold improvement in graphics, compared to a PC from five years back.

Does this mean Kaby Lake will lead a worldwide resurgence in PC sales, which has been on a roller coaster for a while? Well, Intel certainly hopes so, Claims Navin Shenoy, Corporate Vice-President and General Manager for the Client Computing Group at Intel Corporation, “To say we are excited about our new 7th Gen Intel Core family is an understatement. I don’t think there has ever been a better time to check out what a new Intel-powered PC can do.”

Our suggestion — if you have a recent Skylake-powered laptop, you might as well wait for the next-gen Cannonlake processors, slated for launch in the second half of 2017. These will be 10nm processors and are expected to be a significant upgrade over Kaby Lake. However, if you are lugging around a laptop that is couple or more generations old, a Kaby Lake upgrade will be well worth it. Your shoulders and back will thank you for it. Besides, in a pinch, you might be able to chop vegetables with your swanky new ultra-thin laptop.

We’re at IFA 2016 in Berlin. Do follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram – @gntechae for the latest news straight from Messe Berlin.