You'll be forgiven for wondering if Intel's Project Athena laptop initiative is a pointless marketing campaign. When Intel presented the idea at CES this January, it was presented with the vaguest of sales launches and a hilariously trite motto: "Laptop innovation based on human understanding".
But ] reports that, like Intel's 2012 Ultrabook program, it led Windows makers to build the first laptops that could compete significantly with The quality of construction, the battery life and the responsiveness of Apple's remarkable MacBook Air, the Athena Project will have at least one specific promise that you can not necessarily expect from a given laptop today: nine full hours of useful life of the battery in the real world.
This is a subject that is close and dear to my heart. Personally I'm looking for high-capacity laptops like Dell's dual-battery ThinkPads and XPS 15 with a 97Wh battery, and I've been following the deceitful claims of battery manufacturers for years. In 2017, I pointed out how LG used a reference tool of an antiquity to claim that its new Gram 14 could last 23.6 hours with a charge, a reference that assumes that you will hardly use your laptop at all, without Wi-Fi, and with the screen set to very low brightness. Today, most manufacturers have updated at least MobileMark 2014, so they are only five years obsolete.
(My golden rule: halving the battery life of any manufacturer, and you'll be in the right baseball stadium.)
Sure, Intel's definition of battery life In the real world it might be different from yours and mine, but the story of Engadget suggests that the Intel benchmark will mark the right boxes: a wireless web browsing workload, with a lot of other applications running in the background, and a screen brightness higher than before. That's promising, even if Engadget also notes that manufacturers may be using some tricks to get there, such as dimming the screen automatically when you're not around.
When I spoke with Josh Newman from Intel in January (he is vice president of Client Computing and responsible for this initiative), he told me that a better battery life would imply that Intel works closely with OEMs to optimize not only each system but also develop new low-consumption components, all to get to a place where buyers can actually leave the charger at home:
We're trying to get to a place where we can promise or provide a clear expectation that for things that do you do your mobile go-getter, these laptops will last a long time in active use, and you can spend the day with confidence. Every year we will make it bigger and bigger, and when we reach our northern star, it will be like your phone, where you take it out of the charger and do not worry about that.
Newman also told us that sensitive solid-state drives will be a feature of Project Athena laptops, no more slow-rotating dishes, and that we should expect fast Wi-Fi 6 (formerly 802.11x) to be standard. First will be the premium systems, with the expectation that they will be more widely available later in 2020 and 2021. I would also not be surprised if the upcoming Intel 10nm Ice Lake chips are a requirement, seeing how the company has just revealed today that those chips will be sent in June.