Hands On With Intel’s Core M 'Llama Mountain' Reference Design 2-in-1 At IDF 2014

Intel Core M \Intel Core M "Llama Mountain" reference design

Although a few of the early Core M-based 2-in-1s are already floating around the ether, Intel has its own 2-in-1 reference design, and we spent some hands on time with the device at IDF 2014.

Note that the black machine is the OEM reference design while the silver one is an ODM design. (Who made the silver 2-in-1, Intel wouldn't say.) The first thing that struck me was how thin the devices were. Intel has excitedly been touting the thinness that Core M enables, but to see it in person is something else entirely.

The display/tablet portion of Llama Mountain is just 7.2 mm thick; for reference, you can see it here compared to a Surface Pro 3 (which is 9.1 mm). The keyboard adds some girth, obviously, but not much -- about 5 or 6 mm more. (There's also a 10-inch version of Llama Mountain that was not on display, and that device is slightly thinner at 6.8 mm.)

It's also quite light; sans dock the tablet weighs 670 g, which is lighter than the Surface Pro 3 (about 793 g).

However, I wasn't enthused about the strength of the whole 2-in-1; a device like the Surface Pro feels sturdy in the hand, and you have some trust in the tablet/keyboard connection. The Llama Mountain device gave me no such confidence. The magnetic connection didn't have that satisfying "snap" when I docked the tablet, and I found myself constantly feeling that I was about to knock the unit out of the dock when I handled it.

Even so, I'll give Intel a pass on that issue for now; this is merely a reference design after all, and this unit hasn't endured the scrutiny of a team of engineers developing the perfect magnetic connection and conducting extensive stress and durability testing.

Core M devices we see in the marketplace will also do away with Llama Mountain's odd way of converting from a closed clamshell to an open laptop mode; you can't just close the lid. Instead, you have to remove the tablet from the dock and then place the tablet and dock on top of one another.

The 12.5-inch display itself (developed by Sharp) is quite fetching, with bright colors and a crisp and impressive 2560 x 1440 resolution. If you're looking at Llama Mountain as a consumption device, that's a great size for watching movies or playing games; when docked, 12.5 inches is plenty large for working up a PowerPoint presentation, typing a document or editing some photos.

Llama Mountain features an 8MP camera on the back and a front webcam of undisclosed resolution. There's also a headphone jack as well as a USB 3.0 Micro-B connector on the bottom of the tablet (where it connects to the dock).

One nifty feature of the silver ODM design is a set of fins that, when you adjust the display back, extend out in order to maintain balance.

We'll be looking forward to getting our hands on finished OEM Core M 2-in-1s, including but not limited to the Acer Aspire Switch 12, HP Envy x2 ($949.99), ASUS ZenBook UX305, Dell Latitude 7000 Series and Lenovo ThinkPad Helix.

Price points will vary quite a bit, but Intel says that about half of Core M 2-in-1s will cost less than $700. 

Stay tuned for some benchmark numbers on new Core M machines.

Follow Seth Colaner @SethColaner. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

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  • dovah-chan
    Llama mountain confirmed for best name
  • scolaner
    Llama mountain confirmed for best name
    It sounds like a fun place to visit, doesn't it? ;)
  • dovah-chan
    When I think of the name llama mountain, I picture an Intel fab on a mountainside with llamas running it. I can see them walking up-right and wearing those special suits in the clean room. And on the very front of the factory is a small store that has a cafe in it. There at that store you can purchase Intel CPUs and Intel-powered 2 in one's then sit down and grab a cup of coffee and enjoy your new device.