Back in 2012 Intel gave the PC industry a much-needed shot in the arm when it introduced its Ultrabook initiative. This required any laptops that wanted to qualify for the badge to match certain criteria in terms of size, weight and battery life. The results were some fantastic laptops that were not only lightweight but also long-lasting and powerful. Now Intel is at it again with Project Athena, which should prove good news for anyone who wants a top-quality Windows laptop that’s designed for the 2020s.
What is the aim of Project Athena?
At a recent keynote presentation at Computex 2019, Intel senior Vice President Gregory Bryant outlined the needs that Project Athena intends to address.
‘People want systems that are smart and adaptable and can keep pace with them over the course of the day,’ said Bryant. ‘Second: they want PCs that are always ready for instant action, and third: they want PCs that help them focus.’
Project Athena is the distillation of these goals and should hopefully see a new wave of premium laptops that can offer top-level performance no matter where you might be.
What makes a Project Athena laptop different?
Intel recently outlined the core criteria that a laptop has to meet if it wants to be part of Project Athena. These include the following;
Apple has long been able to boast exemplary battery life for devices like the MacBook Air (which is widely accepted to have inspired the Ultrabook initiative), while Windows laptops have often struggled to keep in step. This has led some manufacturers to make rather exaggerated claims on durability, with their laptops being tested in ways that don’t reflect real-life usage.
Intel is having none of this with Project Athena, as laptops will have to be able to deliver sixteen or more hours of local video playback when in airplane mode and the screen set at 150 nits. That’s not all though, as they will also need to last for nine hours of ‘real-world’ use. Intel stipulates these as the brightness set to 250nits, constantly connected to the internet, running mainstream software such as Office365 or Google Chrome with multiple tabs open and resident in the background.
Devices will also have to be able to deliver at least four hours of use after only thirty minutes of charging from a USB-C port. What’s more, Intel will actually test the prospective candidates to ensure that they hit these marks.
Another important aspect for modern devices is that they perform just as well out-and-about as they do when plugged into a power supply. Therefore, Project Athena requires something Intel calls ‘consistent responsiveness on battery’, which translates to equitable speeds when using the stock software that comes with the device and running multiple background applications while having web pages opened. Again, devices will need to run at 250nits, be connected to the internet at all times, and wake from sleep in under a second.
As you can no doubt surmise, achieving these targets will be reliant on some decent hardware and Intel outlines the specifications needed for Project Athena. These include Thunderbolt 3, Intel WiFi 6 (Gig+), fingerprint/facial recognition, Intel Core i5 or i7, 8GB of DRAM, 256GB NVMe SSD, a Gigabit LTE option, 12 to 15in displays running at a minimum of 1080p, touchscreens, backlit keyboards, pen support, and precision touchpads.
When will Project Athena laptops be available?
Intel has announced partnerships with many of the leading PC manufacturers, including Lenovo, Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Microsoft and others, with devices expected to begin appearing before the holiday season in 2019.
Lenovo has already announced a new version of the Yoga S940 which will meet the Project Athena specifications and should arrive before Christmas 2019, while there are also several other models due, such as:
While there’s no Project Athena badge as such, you will see the an ‘Engineered for mobile performance’ sticker that lets you know that the device is compliant with Intel’s new standard.
Intel states that this is only year one of Project Athena, and that the initiative is intended to grow and develop over the next few years. So, if you're looking for a premium laptop then it seems that the future could be very bright indeed.