Intel officially released Haswell, it’s latest processor series, at Computex 2013 this week. While there’s not much to say about in terms of performance so desktop users using Sandy/Ivy Bridge processors don’t have a reason to upgrade, the energy efficiency boost in Haswell is poised to shake up the laptop / tablet / all-in-one market.
And it’s quite possible that future MacBook Pros will be negatively affected by this change.
It’s all a matter of battery life.
When going out to buy a laptop, all of us have our own criteria that we rank in terms of importance. Here are some of those criteria:
- Build quality
- Mobility (battery life + weight)
For a die-hard Mac user, all of these are no-brainers — the only decision they have to make is whether to get an Air or a Pro. But for the rest of us, these are all valid criteria to think about.
In my case, I don’t really care about the following:
- OS – OS X, Windows, and Linux are okay. I’ll be dual-booting or using virtual machines for Linux development work anyway.
- Performance – multimedia laptops (including MBP) share the same narrow performance range, same goes with ultrabooks and Air. This is because all of them use the same processor families.
- Build quality – it’s not that I don’t care about build quality; it’s just that it’s easy to take this out of the question when you only consider Apple, Asus, and Lenovo.
- Looks – nowadays, every freaking non-Thinkpad laptop looks like an MBP and every freaking ultrabook looks like an Air
So I’m left with 3 criteria: Price, Mobility, and Upgradability.
When you have to choose between ultrabooks vs Air, it’s more of a matter of what specific specs you want: For the most part, a “stock” Air is cheaper than many ultrabooks, but weaker; while a fully upgraded Air will be more powerful but will be much more expensive than other ultrabooks.
On the other hand, when it comes to multimedia laptops, the decision goes this way:
Apple – really expensive, long battery life, not easily upgradable
Asus, Lenovo – ok price, so-so battery life, upgradable
And that’s with Ivy Bridge.
If laptop manufacturers take full advantage of Haswell’s capabilities (and that’s a big if), it’s going to look like this:
Apple – really expensive, really long battery life, not easily upgradable
Asus, Lenovo – ok price, good battery life, upgradable
This is where I think multimedia PC laptops can close the gap between them and MBPs. Previously, having an 6-hour battery life makes Macs an easy choice for many people on the go. But when every laptop has an 4-5-hour battery life, will your average on-the-go PC user still consider getting an MBP for twice the price just to get twice the battery life?
In other words, the jump between 3 hours of battery life to 6 hours is a big deal as it’s a sweet-spot for working (a person can only be fully productive for about 6 hours a day) but we’ll have to wait and see whether the market thinks going from 6 hours to 12 hours is worth paying the premium.