Intel's third-generation processor family - code-named Ivy Bridge - have been launched but the first round of 13 of the quad-core chips was reserved for high-end desktops and laptops. These first-round chips will not go in mainstream computers or even trendy Ultrabooks.
The processor upgrade is not far behind for Ultrabooks, however; the first Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks should be hitting retail shelves the first week of June.
The date will be June 5, to be precise, according to Scott Pendrey, a desktop product manager at Intel, as quoted in a Techworld report. Despite the six-month gap between today's unveiling of the Ivy Bridge processors and the Ivy Bridge Ultrabook launch, Techworld writes that Intel's "real target for Ivy Bridge processors is Ultrabooks."
Considering the new chips' main advantages over the second-generation Sandy Bridge processors, I'm inclined to agree. Ultrabooks--and laptops in general--seem to be the real winners when it comes to upgrading to Ivy Bridge. PCWorld benchmarks of the Ivy Bridge processor found moderate CPU performance gains--but, more importantly for laptop users, improved performance and longer battery life. Intel Vice President Kirk Saugen told BBC that both performance and power efficiency are improved by 20 percent in Ivy Bridge when compared to earlier Sandy Bridge processors.
The biggest improvement, though--also significant for Ultrabook and mainstream laptop buyers--is seen in graphics benchmarks. For very intensive laptop gaming (e.g., running games like Skyrim or Crysis 2), you'll still need a discrete graphics card, but Ivy Bridge's impressive integrated graphics can handle most videos, games, and graphics smoothly--saving you $50 or more for a discrete video card.
Intel recently announced 75 Ultrabooks are in the works, including touchscreen hybrids, and that the price of Ultrabooks will drop to $699. However, AMD "Trinity" ultrathin laptops are expected to compete against Intel Ultrabooks on both graphics performance and pricing. So expect this summer to be a very hot one for laptop buying.