New chips from Intel and Nvidia aim to take computing to next level

Promises of improved battery life, graphics performance and processing power

Intel and Nvidia have big plans for this year. Both companies have unveiled new chips that they hope will push them into the next level of computing.

Intel announced its fifth generation of the Intel Core processors, the 14nm Broadwell chips that are intended to improve battery life and graphics performance, bringing 4K video to the desktop with Intel's Iris Graphics.

Broadwell chips will not only be available for desktops and traditional Windows laptops, they are also suitable for Chromebooks and two-in-one devices.

That’s not all Intel has planned. The company is also setting its sights on the mobile market, with Cherry Trail chips that are aimed at tablets. The system on a chip offers 64-bit computing, and also promises improved graphics, performance and battery life for mainstream tablets.

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Nvidia is taking a slightly different approach. Last year, Nvidia unveiled the Tegra K1 chip. This year, the company has doubled its performance with the Tegra X1, a chip that will power its in-car computers.

Built on the Maxwell GPU architecture, Nvidia’s new superchip has eight processing cores, 256 graphics cores and more than one teraflop of processing power. It can also handle 4K video and is power efficient, drawing only 10 watts of power.

Scheduled for launch in the first half of the year, the X1 is more powerful than ASCI Red, the fastest supercomputer of 15 years ago that was the world’s first teraflop system. But the Tegra X1 is significantly smaller; where ASCI Red took up about 1,600sq ft, the Tegra X1 is about the size of a thumbnail.

Nvidia chief executive Jen-Hsun Huang described the new chip as a "giant step" into the revolution that would see significant advances in visual and parallel computing.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist