We finally have with us the new Intel microarchitecture. Is named Tiger lake, and will be the absolute protagonist in the also renewed processors 11th Gen Intel Core for Laptops.
Although Intel already outlined some of its characteristics last January at CES in Las Vegas, it is now when we finally meet the first members of a family that improves in many areas, but above all marks the debut of new Intel Iris Xe graphics chips.
Intel stands up to the Ryzen 4000
In recent months we have witnessed a resurgence of the eternal battle between Intel and AMD, and this new Tiger Lake family is Intel’s answer to what AMD has achieved with the Ryzen 4000.
It is early to determine if Intel has managed to outperform its committer and regain the throne of performance on both CPU and GPU. The numbers that they have given promise, but it will be in independent analyzes where those conclusions can be determined.
What is clear is that the Intel catalog is a priori remarkable and integrates very relevant news. The new Willow Cove cores with up to 4 cores and 8 threads of execution and a Turbo frequency of 4.8 GHz are protagonists, but so are those new Iris Xe graphics with up to 96 execution units and a performance that is twice what the previous family, Ice Lake offered in its integrated GPUs.
There are more benefits that Intel already introduced at its Architecture Day 2020 in August: Thunderbolt 4 integration, PCIe 4.0 support, the ability to connect up to 4 4K monitors at 60 Hz or its new multimedia content encoders (which will allow 4K60 video with 10 bits of color and 4: 4: 4 subsampling, that is, without compression).
This launch will initially have nine processors. Six of them are of the so-called “UP3 Class”, which replaces the previous “U” class and has TDPs that range between 12 and 28 W.
These are the most powerful ultraportable processors of this family at the moment, and the Core i7-1185G7 stands out, which has 4 cores at 3 GHz and a maximum turbo frequency of 4.8 GHz that, yes, triggers the TDP up to 50 W on those peaks. This is where the power control of the chip comes in, which guarantees that the experience is consistent depending on whether we have it plugged into the power or running on the battery.
All chips feature Intel Xe graphics, but execution units vary by model. In the best of cases we have 96 EUs at a frequency of 1.35 GHz, and it will be interesting to see how far these models can go in the field of gaming.
Accompanying those most ambitious processors we have the four initial low consumption models. They are included in the so-called “UP4 Class” that we used to know as the “Y” series, and they have a TDP that ranges from 7 to 15 W. The power is lower, of course, but the consumption is also lower and as in other generations the idea is to apply them to especially light and efficient equipment.
The native frequency drops noticeably to achieve those TDP, but the Turbo frequencies that can be reached are striking: 4.4 GHz (if you only need a core running at maximum) and 3.6 GHz (in all cores). In the Core i7-1160G7 we have an Iris Xe with 96 EUs running at 1.1 GHz, so in this case graphics performance could also give nice surprises.
The CPU improves, but it is almost the least important
At Intel – which by the way, inaugurates a logo – they spoke during the presentation of how they have refined their 10-nanometer lithography and have applied Intel SuperFin technology to improve the performance and efficiency of these transistors that are the basis of their new SoCs.
The redesign also allows it to work at lower voltages and allows integrating a good set of new functions, integrating features that we will talk more about in depth such as Thunderbolt 4, Wi-Fi 6 or PCIe 4.0 support, in addition to performance improvements that according to Intel are 20% better on CPU but they are 2 times (100%) those of the previous graphics cores.
Performance in the realm of artificial intelligence multiply by five, and is applied in various areas that, among other things, allow each nucleus to be used optically at all times.
That is precisely one of the surprises of this release: CPU performance improves, no doubt, but is overshadowed by the rest of the improvements that Intel brings to this platform.
The great protagonist is its new graphic architecture, which is accompanied by the new multiplied performance in artificial intelligence tasks and that set of connectivity and portability options that come together under the so-called Project Athena.
Precisely the Project Athena, now renamed “Intel EVO”, defines a series of components and technologies that come together in these new computers in which Intel wants to guarantee certain key sections for the usability of these computers. For example, the ability to wake up in one second from sleep states.
It will also be possible to enjoy (at least) 9 hours of autonomy in equipment with Full HD screens and a more or less normal use of the laptop, and with these devices support for fast charging is offered that for example allows another 4 hours of autonomy (again in devices with Full HD screens) in just 30 minutes of charging.
The era of Intel Iris Xe graphics begins
We have been waiting a long time for a qualitative leap from Intel in the graphics field, and although some “huge” product destined for data centers and high-performance computing environments have already been glimpsed, the proposal for end users had not crystallized at the moment.
It does so now for the first time in the form of integrated graphics chips for laptops. To the traditional Intel HD Graphics and Intel Iris, solutions based on Intel’s Gen11 Graphics architecture from the Ice Lake family, they are now replaced by Intel Iris Xe, the implementation for this type of equipment of the new graphic architecture of this company.
There are many promises of these chips and this architecture, and in fact months ago it was possible to see how a prototype of a laptop with these chips was able to run ‘Battlefield V’ in 1080p and high detail level with surprising smoothness.
It is still early to be able to confirm if we are facing the chips that will turn any laptop into a modest gaming equipment without the need for dedicated graphics, but of course Intel seems to propose a very ambitious solution here That will give much more room for maneuver even for more casual players or not so ambitious in this section.
The tests that Intel showed during the presentation were very striking, of course. To begin with, they indicated that with Intel Iris Xe they achieved graphic performance better than 90% of laptops with dedicated graphics (not integrated, beware) that were sold last year.
In their comparisons with various games they showed a computer with an AMD Ryzen 7 4800U versus one of its 11th generation processors (unspecified) and at least in those internal tests it was clear that the performance of these new Intel microphones and their chips Iris Xe graphics it was notably superior to that of graphics chips integrated of those Intel chips.
Although those tests are certainly surprising, it will be especially interesting to check If the expectations generated by the company today come true when we have access to teams with which to analyze that performance independently.
Wi-Fi 6 and Thunderbolt 4 in the bedroom
Intel has always tried to offer complete solutions for OEMs and laptop manufacturers by launching new generations of CPUs for this segment. They invented the category of Ultrabooks that ended up being blurred, and now they will promote the so-called Project Athena that groups teams with certain types of processors and certain connectivity options or battery life, for example.
With the new generation of processors with Tiger Lake microarchitecture something similar happens: Intel combines them with two striking and important characteristics that will allow them to score points in the aforementioned sections. To start with is Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), connectivity to new generation wireless networks that is gradually spreading and that over time will almost completely replace Wi-Fi 5 connections, much better known as 802.11ac until now.
Having this Wi-Fi 6 connectivity as standard is interesting because allows to achieve transfer rates of 600 Mbps per stream (433 on Wi-Fi 5) and a total maximum of 10,000 Mbps (7,000 on Wi-Fi 5). Range and coverage improve even in crowded spaces, making this standard especially interesting with the growing number of devices connecting to these networks.
The other novelty of the ‘pack’ is Thunderbolt 4 connectivity, which despite increasing the numbering does not bring especially revolutionary changes. Transfer speeds remain unchanged over Thunderbolt 3, so we will have a maximum of 40 Gbps. That will make it even superior to the USB 3.2 Gen 2 standard that achieves transfers of up to 20 Gbps.
Even so, there are internal changes that could make the operation of these devices a little better. Intel requires Thunderbolt 4 32 Gbps bandwidth support, which is twice the amount supported in TB3.
This will mean that in many scenarios, although the maximum speed is not higher, the transfers can benefit from that bandwidth. In fact it will allow for example to connect not a 4K monitor, as in Thunderbolt 3, but two of these 4K screens and even an 8K screen.
The standard also makes it possible for them to go on the market docks (base stations) with up to four ports, and it will fix a TB3 defect that did not allow a PC to “wake up” from a keyboard or mouse connected to one of these docks.
Update (09/03/2020)– We have added a section at the beginning of the article describing the nine starter processors that Intel has released in the new Tiger Lake family.