More secure biometric logins
Microsoft wants to kill passwords with Windows Hello, which can log users into PCs via facial recognition, fingerprints or retina scans. Intel's providing an alternative to Windows Hello called Authenticate, which requires multiple authentication techniques to log in to PCs. For example, users may be required to log in twice -- once during the pre-boot sequence and then again in to Windows once the boot is complete. Authenticate is available only in business PCs with Kaby Lake vPro chips. Intel claims Authenticate is more secure than Windows Hello, as user data is secured and stored in a special CSME (converged security manageability engine) chip, which has its own operating system and firmware. Microsoft and Intel are co-developing a version of Authenticate and Windows Hello with multi-factor authentication to log into a PC and Windows.
Faster storage with Optane
PC designs could change forever with the superfast Optane, a new class of storage and memory that could replace conventional SSDs and DRAM. Intel claims Optane-based SSDs are 10 times faster than today's SSDs, and denser than DRAM. But here's the bad news: the first Optane units will be lower-capacity caching storage, not full-fledged SSDs with large storage capacity. The initial Optane units will help load the OS, applications and games faster, and will work with only with Kaby Lake PCs. It could be ideal for gamers looking to buffer games, or those running engineering applications or creating virtual reality content.
Run applications faster
The new Kaby Lake chips have faster CPUs and GPUs so applications and graphics can run faster. PCs are also faster as Windows 10 has also been tweaked to work closely with the chip. PC makers are seeing CPU performance improvements between 5 and 15 percent with Kaby Lake chips compared to the predecessor Skylake chips.
More modems and connectivity for laptops
Modems have been in laptops for years more as an afterthought, but not anymore. Lenovo is offering modems as a standard feature in its ThinkPad X1 laptops and 2-in-1s so users can connect to cellular networks if Wi-Fi isn't available. Like with smartphones, cellular modems will drive communications in laptops, especially with 4G network speeds going up and 5G networks around the corner.
Gamers craving more performance will be able to overclock the Core i7-7820HK Kaby Lake chip, which has a base speed of 2.9GHz but can be cranked up to 4.4GHz. Look for the chip in Dell's Alienware 15 and 17 laptops, which are being launched at CES.
There's a renewed effort to cut cables from PCs with wireless charging and data transfer technologies. Wireless charging laptops are being shown at CES, and Intel's increasing its focus on bringing WiGig wireless technology to PCs. WiGig can wirelessly connect laptops to peripherals like storage devices and monitors, providing a way to get rid of connectors and display ports from PCs. The wireless technologies are still years away from widespread adoption, but gaining steam again after a few years of inactivity.
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