A “once in a decade” experience: That’s how Intel is describing the launch of its 6th generation “Skylake” Core processors, which it claims will offer groundbreaking speed, graphics performance, and battery life—particularly in conjunction with Windows 10.
At IFA 2015 in Berlin, the company introduced the new chips, which will power the full range of PCs from entry-level laptops to Xeon workstations. There was lots of info to digest, but here are the most notable takeaways.
1. 4K Is the Future
It’s clear that Intel believes 4K is more than just a passing fad. While TV shoppers eye this high-res tech with skepticism, the processor giant sees Ultra HD adoption skyrocketing throughout the market—from PC monitors, to tablets, to smartphones and more.
4K gaming and video are a huge focus for the 6th Generation Core processors, which take advantage of H.265 encoding and decoding and other optimizations to ensure smooth playback and an intuitive editing experience.
One demo at the IFA press conference featured a gaming PC connected to three 4K monitors, playing World of Tanks at an effective 12K resolution—not butter-smooth, but impressive nonetheless. Another put two “nearly identical” PCs in a 4K video playback cage match, each simultaneously playing back 15 videos. One machine was powered by a $2,000 Nvidia Titan GPU, while the other used the Core i7 6700K’s integrated HD Graphics 530. Unsurprisingly, the built-in solution blew the discrete video card away, thanks largely to H.265 decoding.
2. Instant Wake Is Really, Really Instant
Combined with Windows 10’s “modern standby” sleep mode, Intel’s 6th Gen Core processors can wake a sleeping PC in just 300-500 milliseconds—yes, less than half a second. That’s as close to instant-on computing as anyone has come, and more than most users will ever truly need.
3. Facial Login Is Really, Really Slick
Intel also made a big deal about its True Key facial recognition technology, which is being adopted in a new wave of laptops, tablets, and convertible devices in conjunction with Windows 10’s “Hello” feature and Intel’s own RealSense 3D cameras. The idea is to completely eliminate the need for passwords by securely recognizing a user’s face, and the results on display at IFA were hard to argue with.
Intel’s Kirk Skaugen, Senior VP of the Client Computing Group, brought a pair of identical twins onstage and invited them to try to log in to a True Key–equipped PC that had only been set up for one of them to access. There's no twist here: The system worked exactly as expected. With that kind of precision, many users—even businesses—may feel comfortable finally getting rid of alphanumeric security keys.
4. You Can 3D-Print Action Figures of Yourself
Face detection isn’t the only way the future is looking back at you. Notebooks and other devices equipped with Intel’s R200 RealSense camera will 3D-scan both your face and other objects, with lots of fun potential applications.
According to Skaugen, soon you’ll be able to scan your own face to use in video games, scan objects you want to send to a 3D printer, and enjoy more powerful augmented reality (AR) experiences. A demo shown onstage put Skaugen himself into a weird sort of breakdancing simulator. It didn’t look like a very good game, but the character looked convincingly Skaugen-esque.
5. Wireless Charging Is (Still) Coming
Skaugen was bullish on the future of hassle-free wireless charging, but admitted that Intel is still “inventing” the technology to make charging laptops a reality.
Intel’s solution—developed with the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and Power Matters Alliance (PMA)—uses magnetic resonance coupling. Unlike the inductive chargers currently on the market, magnetic resonance chargers can power multiple devices and don’t require direct contact. You can attach a charging mat to the bottom of a wood or Corian table, for instance, and place your phone on top.
Currently, the tech works with 5-watt charging for phones, and some chargers are already hitting the market. According to Intel, you can expect the market to be flooded with the first wave of 20-watt chargers for notebook-style devices in about a year. Skaugen says the first chargers will likely be integrated into docks for convertible devices and tablets.