Intel's North Cape is a power-sipping, keyboard-detaching blueprint for Haswell PCs (hands-on)

intel northcape haswell stock 1020

Intel’s fourth-generation Haswell processors were the focal point of the company’s presentation today, and with its North Cape reference design, Intel aims to show the public what it can expect from the new chips. The detachable Windows 8 tablet contains a separate battery in the keyboard for extra power, and the sub–10W design means that users can expect to get in the neighborhood of 13 hours of battery life. But North Cape also has some flashier tricks up its sleeve. Firstly, its electromechanical locking mechanism can be disengaged with a single finger. There's a key in the keyboard's top-right corner that unlocks the tablet from the keyboard — a patent-pending technology that Intel plans to license to OEMs. The crucial portion of the mechanism in the center looks a bit like Apple’s old 30-pin connector, but Intel wasn’t ready to provide any more details into the technologies underpinning it.

The other trick is something called Smart Touch — the tablet’s 1080p screen can switch on the fly from displaying 13.3 inches to 11.6, either automatically when you remove it from the keyboard dock, or on command with a button hidden on the screen’s top edge. It sounds like a gimmick, but when you see how narrow the bezel is around North Cape’s screen, you can understand why people might want some more free space for their thumbs.

Intel wasn’t prepared to let us use the device, but judging from its heft, the overall package isn't so much heavier than a standard ultrabook. A company representative even told us that it meets all of the ultrabook standards, including weight, North Cape hasn’t yet been optimized for weight, however, so we’d expect even lighter machines when Haswell hits stores later this year.

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