Intel & # 39; s 10th Gen, 10nm Ice Lake CPU & # 39; s: all you need to know

Intel has a lot to prove. 2018 marked the 50-year jubilee of the chip maker, but it was also a year that the company shook to the core. It was the year that Intel lost its CEO, wrestled with Specter and Meltdown, and reportedly lost Apple's trust for chips for future Macs. Moreover, it was the year in which the world finally realized that Intel processors had hit a wall after another failure to shrink the circuits to the "10 nanometer" process node.


But now, after years of delay, the company is about to bring its first real batch * of 10nm CPU & # 39; s to the world. Today, the company officially takes the wraps of its 10th Gen Intel Core processors, codenamed "Ice Lake", and reveals some of what they could possibly do for your next PC when shipped in June.

This is what you need to know.

They first come for thin laptops and tablets

Each new generation of Intel processors is usually supplied in different flavors, depending on how much power you need, from sturdy 95-watt desktop gaming chips all the way up to 5 or 7-watt Y-series components designed for extremely thin, fanless laptops and convertible tablets.

But Intel is not talking about most of those components today. Ice Lake will start with 9W, 15W and 28W components with up to 4 cores, 8 threads and a 4.1GHz turbo clock speed, which means that it currently protrudes on the kind of chip that you would find in Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro. Anything apparently beefier has to wait. Intel says 30 Ice Designs have been released this season, including a new version of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 that I have taken a few photos here:


Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 with Ice Lake.

Faster, but by how much?

Ice Lake is faster and faster is good – but the promises from Intel about speed are not particularly amazing.

On the CPU side, Intel says that clock by clock, the performance of Ice Lake is 18 percent faster, that sounds impressive & you consider it comparing with the Skylake cores that the company released almost four years ago ! "data-upload-width =" 1666 "src =" ( 0x0: 1666x856): no_upscale () /

Image: Intel

Single-threaded performance has also shot up with the new Sunnycove cores – but now we are comparing with the almost five years ago Broadwell. "data-upload-width =" 1608 "src =" ( 0x0: 1608x837): no_upscale () /

The gap between Whiskey Lake and Ice Lake does not look very big.
Image: Intel

The impressive boost from Ice Lake is in graphics horsepower, where Intel says it has nearly doubled the performance of the previous 15W components now that the Gen11 integrated graphics card has 1.12 teraflops of FP32 computing power. But that still doesn't necessarily translate into smooth 1080p gaming, as you can see in this graph: "data-upload-width =" 1644 "src =" ( 0x0: 1644x853): no_upscale () /

The integrated graphics card from Intel still fails to deliver 60 frames per second at 1080p, even at lower settings with not very demanding games.
Image: Intel

On the positive side, this is a 15W processor that does integrated graphics that you previously needed a thicker laptop with a 28W processor. But we saw Intel & # 39; s one-off hybrid parts with AMD Radeon graphics better, and we're not ready to do it without separate graphics.


In addition, Intel primarily promises high speeds in relatively specific areas, such as 2x faster HEVC encoding to spit out higher quality video at lower file sizes, or 2.5x the "AI performance" for machine learning tasks such as image recognition. (For example, Ice Lake can search for specific types of photos in your Microsoft Photos library much faster.)

But all of these depend on which exact Ice Lake processor you choose – for example, one with Intel & # 39; s Iris Plus graphics to get that full graphical boost – and Intel didn't share the names or specifications of specific components with us today.

More support for the monitor

Even if Gen 11 graphics aren't a game beast, it can help you create a more powerful display or three. Intel says the three display pipes now support a maximum 5K monitor at 60Hz or a 4K monitor at 120Hz with 10-bit color, and Intel now supports VESA Adaptive Sync, the standardized version of the motion blur and screen-sharpening reduction idea by Nvidia and AMD as G-Sync and FreeSync respectively.

That should mean a smoother gameplay, even if the frame rates aren't quite there.

The most exciting additions to Ice Lake are not guaranteed

Frankly, the most interesting part of Ice Lake may not be all that the processor can do itself – but how they make it much more likely that your next laptop will contain the incredibly handy all-in-one Thunderbolt 3 port and fast Wi-Fi Fi 6 technologies. That's because Intel revealed in January that Ice Lake will bake it in real silicon. But we learn today that they too have some reservations.


Although the 10nm CPU from Ice Lake and the 14nm PCH-accompanying chip (yes, it is not) all of them 10nm) means that manufacturers no longer have to buy and find space to integrate a Thunderbolt 3 controller or a full Wi-Fi module on their laptop or desktop motherboards, there are still additional components they need to To use Intel to make it work. "data-upload-width =" 1614 "src =" ( 0x0: 1614x794): no_upscale () /

Image: Intel

In the case of Thunderbolt 3, they will have to buy and integrate retimers from Intel, and manufacturers of Thunderbolt 3 accessories will still have to buy the regular controllers; in the case of Wi-Fi 6 there is a new, smaller associated radio module that manufacturers can purchase (such as the 802.11ac CNVi companions for the 9th Gen Core) but they still need a separate module for it to work: "data-upload-width =" 1626 "src =" ( 0x0: 1626x871): no_upscale () /

You now only need a very small WiFi chip.
Image: Intel

Yet Intel expects these movements to improve the assumption of both Thunderbolt 3 and Wi-Fi 6 compared to the status quo, and says that reducing the complexity of Thunderbolt 3 and 300mW power in particular. And the fact that USB 4 is actually about to become Thunderbolt 3 suggests that adoption will not be a big issue anyway.

We'll let you know what we really think about Ice Lake when Intel reveals the actual parts – and when we get the chance to try those chips for ourselves.

* Technically, Intel has been sent a single, lonely 10nm Cannon Lake processor midway through last year, but good luck finding an outside a specific Intel NUC mini computer.


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