Razer’s Upcoming Intel-Powered Switch 13 Will Offer 25W Switchable TDP

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When Intel took the lid off of Ice Lake, we noted that the performance data for the CPU was complex. On the GPU side of things, Ice Lake is a huge leap forward, with substantially higher performance than anything we’ve seen from Intel integrated graphics before. The CPU, however, was a rather mixed bag. When restrained to a 15W TDP, Ice Lake CPUs weren’t necessarily faster than the Coffee Lake chips they are intended to replace and were often somewhat slower. If you give the CPU additional headroom, this problem resolves — but of course, giving the chip more power to play with has a negative impact on heat and battery life.

When Intel invited reviewers to test Ice Lake, the test systems it offered had a toggle switch to flip from 15W to 25W envelopes. That’s how PCMag and other publications were able to test the laptop in both modes, as shown below:

Users don’t usually have this kind of option. TDP ranges are typically pre-defined by the OEM and are not something that the end user can modify, for obvious reasons — cranking up laptop TDP is a good way to overheat the system if you don’t know what you’re doing and if the laptop isn’t specifically designed to run at the higher power level. To the best of our knowledge (until today), no consumer laptop could actually change its TDP values on the fly. At the Ice Lake testing event, Intel told reviewers that the Ice Lake laptops sold at retail wouldn’t have this option, either.

There appears to be at least one exception to this rule, however. The Razer Blade 13 will have an adjustable TDP that can be configured through Razer’s Synapse software. Supposedly this capability has always existed, going back to the original Razer Blade. If this is true, it’s not something the company previously seems to have highlighted — Google doesn’t bring up any results referring to an adjustable TDP on previous versions of the Razer Blade,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce unless you count the fact that the laptop would down-clock under load in some circumstances. To be clear, the ability to run the CPU in a lower power envelope under load isn’t the same thing as being able to voluntarily put it in a higher TDP mode and operate it with additional power headroom.

Given that Intel had already told reviewers not to expect adjustable TDP ranges as a major laptop feature, this raises the question: Is this specific to Razer, or will we see more laptop manufacturers taking advantage of these new capabilities? Will Intel make adjustable TDPs a feature that high-end customers can shell out for if they want the option?

Razer’s website for the new Blade states that the system will use a 25W Ice Lake CPU, but does not mention anything about the system being adjustable within a 15W versus a 25W power envelope.

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Leak Points to Intel Comet Lake Desktops Arriving in 2020: 10 Cores, New Socket

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We’ve heard for a while that Intel might respond to AMD’s 7nm onslaught with higher core counts on desktop processors. A new leak suggests that’s exactly what the company will do, with a new chipset supporting up to 10-core CPUs built on the company’s mature 14nm process. This will supposedly require a new CPU socket, as Intel is increasing the power delivery and capability of its desktop motherboards to compensate for the higher power requirements in a 10-core chip.

The new socket is supposedly LGA 1200 and the top-end chips will offer 10C/20T configurations if rumors are to be believed. TDP is also finally rising, up to 125W. This last is something of an interesting point. Intel CPU power consumption currently has little relation to TDP if you allow the CPU to boost; TDP is measured at base clock, not boost clock. Intel may need to expand TDP to deal with adding more CPU cores, but in the past, it has kept its CPUsSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce in the same TDP brackets by cutting base clock.


Image by XFastest

Our guess is that Intel is raising TDP because it doesn’t want to do this again. Cutting its base clocks further to remain within the old 95W TDP bracket with 10 cores instead of eight is probably possible, but runs the risk of creating negative comparisons against previous generation parts or AMD hardware. Intel reduced base clock speed when it moved from the Core i7-8700K to the Core i9-9900K — the 9900K has a base clock of 3.6GHz, while the 8700K is 3.7GHz. The old 7700K had a base clock of 4.2GHz, though obviously vastly inferior performance overall.

The relatively low base clock may not have been much of a concern when AMD’s own Ryzen 7 base clocks were also in the 3.6 – 3.7GHz range, but AMD adjusted its own clock ranges slightly for 7nm. The 3700X has a base clock of 3.7GHz, while the Ryzen 3800X is 3.9GHz base and the 3900X is a 3.8GHz chip. Intel may want to bring clocks up slightly to make certain it matches on base, and the only way to do that is to nudge the TDP higher.

Image by XFastest

Supposedly the new 400-series adds another 49 pins to hit LGA1200, with the extra pins used for power delivery. There would be a few new features, like integrated 802.11ax support and presumably an easier method of integrating Thunderbolt 3, similar to what we’ve seen in mobile. 65W and 35W CPUs would still be supported (and released) on this latest 14nm revision, it’s just the enthusiast TDP bracket that would stretch up to 125W. Intel would likely try to keep the boost clock as high as possible, but I don’t want to speculate on what that will be.

Catching AMD Wouldn’t Be the Goal

Anyone who has paid attention to relative standings between AMD and Intel has already realized that a 10-core Comet Lake isn’t going to match AMD in most performance areas. The 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X is on its way, and we’ve already seen what happens when a 10-core Intel HEDT CPU takes on a 16-core AMD Threadripper: The 10-core CPU loses. Mostly, it loses by a lot.

But while this might sound faintly absurd, beating AMD in absolute multi-core performance probably isn’t the goal here. Both companies are working towards their respective strengths: For AMD, that means emphasizing multi-core while working to improve single-core, where Intel still holds a narrow advantage in some games at 1080p. For Intel, that means attempting to improve single-core while competing more effectively in multi-core. Bumping up to 10 cores and raising base clock via TDP increase probably helps the company achieve that. It’s going to take more than +2 cores to put Intel seriously back in the multi-threading game, and the company knows that.

The rumors of a 10-core Comet Lake are strong enough and have been running around for long enough that I think they’re pretty solid. We suspect this generation will see the return of Hyper-Threading as well to boost Intel’s competitive standing against AMD at lower price brackets. Without any price information, we obviously can’t opine on how the two companies will stack up, but Intel has a history of introducing better price/performance ratios at major product launches. This suggests we’ll see the company adjust its core count/dollar strategy at the next major launch.

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Intel Unveils 6-Core 10th Gen Mobile CPUs, but Power Limits May Throttle Chips

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Intel has announced yet another tranche of 10th Generation mobile chips, this time based on 14nm. This is the third Intel 10th Generation announcement that the company has made recently and the first to show us how 10nm and 14nm products will live side-by-side in the same product families. The headline news here is that Intel is bumping its maximum mobile CPU core count to 6C/12T in a 15W power envelope, up from 4C/8T. The 14nm CPUsSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce in the 10th Generation family are Comet Lake, paired up with Ice Lake to fill out the field.

On paper, this shift should be an excellent move for Intel. When the company launched 8th Generation chips, it delivered a significant overall performance improvement. Our initial concerns that high-clocked dual-cores might prove to be better options than lower-clocked quads were groundless; the low base clocks on 8th Generation mobile parts didn’t prevent them from delivering excellent gains in comparison.

There’s good reason to think that’s not the case any longer. Here’s one of the official Intel slides predicting the performance improvements customers who buy a new, 10th Generation CPU like the Core i7-10710U (that’s the six-core variant) can expect:

These are significant gains for a single generation of product. Up to 16 percent better overall performance compared with Coffee Lake, 41 percent better productivity in Office 365, and the same battery life? Not bad. But let’s check the fine print.

Click to enlarge.

This is from Intel’s official disclaimers page. Each numbered entry — 1, 2, 3, — deals with one of the claims we’ve just shown you. I’ve highlighted the listed TDP for each CPU in each entry. Note that #1 and #2 — the two performance claims — deal with two very different system configurations. In both cases, the six-core Core i7-10710U has been configured to run at a 25W TDP, while the Core i7-8565U has been handicapped to a 15W TDP.

The third data point, however, does not show this configuration. Here, the two chips are both running in a 15W envelope. The problem here is that users typically don’t have access to an OEM or Intel-provided method of switching between operating modes. That’s a decision that the laptopSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce manufacturer makes. You can sometimes use third-party utilities or the Intel Extreme Tuning utility to tweak CPU configurations, but you can’t just flip between 15W and 25W configurations. Whatever configuration your laptop manufacturer used is the configuration you are stuck with, and they don’t typically advertise this information.

Intel Didn’t Do This for the 8th Gen Launch

We compared backward against the 2017 8th Generation launch to see how Intel had handled messaging in that situation. There’s a similar slide for the 8th Gen family comparing backward against the 7th Gen family.

We see a similar (though significantly larger) improvement and a similar footnote. Where’s that take us?

Nowhere good. In 2017, when Intel compared performance between the Core i7-8550U and the Core i7-7500U, it didn’t need to futz with TDP values in order to make its performance figures align. The comparison was performed with 15W allocated for both CPUs.

There’s only one reason we can think of for Intel to do this: power consumption. While TDP ratings are not equivalent to total CPU power consumption and should not be read that way, giving a CPU more TDP headroom allows it to draw more power. When reviewers spent time with Ice Lake earlier this month, we specifically noted how giving a CPU more TDP headroom allows it to run faster, as shown below:


We don’t know how much faster the Core i7-10710U is when running in a 25W TDP versus a 15W TDP. What matters is that Intel is misrepresenting the type of comparison it’s making on its 10th Generation launch slides. Comparing laptop performance in two different TDP ranges for your performance metrics, only to flip and compare what amounts to a fundamentally different machine configuration for battery life is disingenuous. The switch between 15W and 25W operating modes may not seem like a big deal, but that’s not a switch that an end-user can throw. When you buy one of these chips, you’ll be getting either the higher-performance 25W version or the lower-performing 15W flavor, and OEMs don’t typically communicate the ultra-fine points of their power management strategies or SKU selections.

The final reason to suspect that TDP is limiting CPU performance in this case? The gains aren’t large enough. Moving to a six-core CPU from a quad may not be as large an improvement as the jump from 2C/4T to 4C/8T, but it should still be worth 1.5x baseline improvement, and there are plenty of benchmarks that will show this type of gain — if the chip isn’t butting up against thermal limits already.

Meet the (Rest) of the 10th Generation 14nm Family

Intel is launching a full suite of U- and Y-class parts, as shown below:


Outside of the Core i7-10710U, improvements are kind of difficult to come by. The Core i7-105100U is a 1.8GHz base, 4.9GHz single-core Turbo, 4.3GHz all-core boost. Intel didn’t disclose its all-core boost frequencies for chips like the Core i7-8665U, but that CPU is a 1.9GHz base / 4.8GHz boost CPU. The total number of EUs for graphics and the graphics frequency are identical between the two parts. The Core i7-10710U does support LPDDR4X-2933, LPDDR3-2133, or DDR4-2666, while the Core i7-8665U only supports DDR4-2400 or LPDDR3-2133, but these improvements are going to be of limited value to users. Intel CPUs aren’t very RAM bandwidth-bound.


These chips will also carry the other 10th generation improvements Intel is shipping, like faster Wi-Fi and support for Intel’s Dynamic Tuning technology. They’ll collectively target the 7W envelope (Intel’s 10nm 10th Gen parts don’t fit into anything below 9W). They offer up to 4.9GHz of maximum frequency compared with 4.1GHz for 10nm Ice Lake CPUs. According to Intel, the U-series and Y-series are intended for customers that want top-notch CPU performance but care less about graphics on the whole. Outside of the single new 6-core SKU, all of the new chips are quad-core parts as well.

Our read on the situation is this: Intel is struggling to contain a resurgent AMD by doubling down on the one market where AMD has always been weakest: mobile. 10nm had to be in market by holidays 2020 for a host of reasons, but Intel isn’t manufacturing enough of the chips to just commit to a top-to-bottom 10nm refresh in that segment. So now we have a mix of 14nm and 10nm parts to address overall market needs, with the 10nm CPUs offering higher IPC and a dramatically improved graphics core, but significantly lower frequency. 14nm chips will theoretically anchor the product in-market with a “halo” six-core part.

But this time around, the situation is different. When Intel moved from 2C/4T to 4C/8T CPUs in mobile, it had held the line on 2C/4T configurations for multiple product cycles. Effectively, it had thermal headroom to spare. This time around, the company has telegraphed that its six-core 15W CPU is gasping for metaphorical air. We don’t know what the real improvements are between the Core i7-8565U and the Core i7-10710U, but we can bet they’re smaller than the 16 percent and 41 percent that Intel quoted. And if by some chance you do get a 25W laptop with a Core i7-10710U in it, it’s not going to offer commensurate battery life to that same configuration with a 15W CPU unless the OEM outfits it with a significantly heftier battery — which means you might get more cores and equivalent battery life, but you’ll pay for it with additional weight.

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Intel Announces Cooper Lake Will Be Socketed, Compatible With Future Ice Lake CPUs

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Intel may have launched Cascade Lake relatively recently, but there’s another 14nm server refresh already on the horizon. Intel lifted the lid on Cooper Lake today, giving some new details on how the CPU fits into its product lineup with Ice Lake 10nm server chips already supposedly queuing up for 2020 deployment.

Cooper Lake’s features include support for the Google-developed bfloat16 format. It will also support up to 56 CPU cores in a socketed format, unlike Cascade Lake-AP, which scales up to 56 cores but only in a soldered, BGA configuration. The new socket will reportedly be known as LGA4189. There are reports that these chips could offer up to 16 memory channels (because Cascade Lake-AP and Cooper Lake both use multiple dies on the same chip, the implication is that Intel may launch up to 16 memory channels per socket with the dual-die version).


The bfloat16 support is a major addition to Intel’s AI efforts. While 16-bit half-precision floating point numbers have been defined in the IEEE 754 standard for over 30 years, bfloat16 changes the balance between how much of the format is used for significant digits and how much is devoted to exponents. The original IEEE 754 standard is designed to prioritize precision, with just five exponent bits. The new format allows for a much greater range of values but at lower precision. This is particularly valuable for AI and deep learning calculations, and is a major step on Intel’s path to improving the performance of AI and deep learning calculations on CPUs. Intel has published a whitepaper on bfloat16 if you’re looking for more information on the topic. Google claims that using bfloat16 instead of conventional half-precision floating point can yield significant performance advantages. The company writes: “Some operations are memory-bandwidth-bound, which means the memory bandwidth determines the time spent in such operations. Storing inputs and outputs of memory-bandwidth-bound operations in the bfloat16 format reduces the amount of data that must be transferred, thus improving the speed of the operations.”

The other advantage of Cooper Lake is that the CPU will reportedly share a socket with Ice Lake servers coming in 2020. One major theorized distinction between the two families is that Ice Lake servers on 10nm may not support bfloat16, while 14nm Cooper Lake servers will. This could be the result of increased differentiation in Intel’s product lines, though it’s also possible that it reflects 10nm’s troubled development.

Bringing 56 cores to market in a socketed form factor indicates Intel expects Cooper Lake to expand to more customers than Cascade Lake / Cascade Lake-AP targeted. It also raises questions about what kind of Ice Lake servers Intel will bring to market, and whether we’ll see 56-core versions of these chips as well. To-date, all of Intel’s messaging around 10nm Ice Lake has focused on servers or mobile. This may mirror the strategy Intel used for Broadwell, where the desktop versions of the CPU were few and far between, and the mobile and server parts dominated that family — but Intel also said later that not doing a Broadwell desktop release was a mistake and that the company had goofed by skipping the market. Whether that means Intel is keeping an Ice Lake desktop launch under its hat or if the company has decided skipping desktop again does make sense this time around is still unclear.

Cooper Lake’s focus on AI processing implies that it isn’t necessarily intended to go toe-to-toe with AMD’s upcoming 7nm Epyc. AMD hasn’t said much about AI or machine learning workloads on its processors, and while its 7nm chips add support for 256-bit AVX2 operations, we haven’t heard anything from the CPU division at the company to imply a specific focus on the AI market. AMD’s efforts in this space are still GPU-based, and while its CPUs will certainly run AI code, it doesn’t seem to be gunning for the market the way Intel has. Between adding new support for AI to existing Xeons, its Movidius and Nervana products, projects like Loihi, and plans for the data center market with Xe, Intel is trying to build a market for itself to protect its HPC and high-end server business — and to tackle Nvidia’s own current dominance of the space.

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How Are Process Nodes Defined?

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We talk a lot about process nodes at ExtremeTech, but we don’t often refer back to what a process node technically is. With Intel’s 10nm node moving towards production, I’ve noticed an uptick in conversations around this issue and confusion about whether TSMC and Samsung possess a manufacturing advantage over Intel (and, if they do, how large an advantage they possess).

Process nodes are typically named with a number followed by the abbreviation for nanometer: 32nm, 22nm, 14nm, etc. There is no fixed, objective relationship between any feature of the CPUSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce and the name of the node. This was not always the case. From roughly the 1960s through the end of the 1990s, nodes were named based on their gate lengths. This chart from IEEE shows the relationship:


For a long time, gate length (the length of the transistor gate) and half-pitch (half the distance between two identical features on a chip) matched the process node name, but the last time this was true was 1997. The half-pitch continued to match the node name for several generations but is no longer related to it in any practical sense. In fact, it’s been a very long time since our geometric scaling of processor nodes actually matched with what the curve would look like if we’d been able to continue actually shrinking feature sizes.


Well below 1nm before 2015? Pleasant fantasy.

If we’d hit the geometric scaling requirements to keep node names and actual feature sizes synchronized, we’d have plunged below 1nm manufacturing six years ago. The numbers that we use to signify each new node are just numbers that companies pick. Back in 2010, the ITRS (more on them in a moment) referred to the technology chum bucket dumped in at every node as enabling “equivalent scaling.” As we approach the end of the nanometer scale, companies may begin referring to angstroms instead of nanometers, or we may simply start using decimal points. When I started work in this industry it was much more common to see journalists refer to process nodes in microns instead of nanometers — 0.18-micron or 0.13-micron, for example, instead of 180nm or 130nm.

How the Market Fragmented

Semiconductor manufacturing involves tremendous capital expenditure and a great deal of long-term research. The average length of time between when a new technological approach is introduced in a paper and when it hits widescale commercial manufacturing is on the order of 10-15 years. Decades ago, the semiconductor industry recognized that it would be to everyone’s advantage if a general roadmap existed for node introductions and the feature sizes those nodes would target. This would allow for the broad, simultaneous development of all the pieces of the puzzle required to bring a new node to market. For many years, the ITRS — the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors — published a general roadmap for the industry. These roadmaps stretched over 15 years and set general targets for the semiconductor market.


Image by Wikipedia

The ITRS was published from 1998-2015. From 2013-2014, the ITRS reorganized into the ITRS 2.0, but soon recognized that the scope of its mandate — namely, to provide “the main reference into the future for university, consortia, and industry researchers to stimulate innovation in various areas of technology” required the organization to drastically expand its reach and coverage. The ITRS was retired and a new organization was formed called IRDS — International Roadmap for Devices and Systems — with a much larger mandate, covering a wider set of technologies.

This shift in scope and focus mirrors what’s been happening across the foundry industry. The reason we stopped tying gate length or half-pitch to node size is that they either stopped scaling or began scaling much more slowly. As an alternative, companies have integrated various new technologies and manufacturing approaches to allow for continued node scaling. At 40/45nm, companies like GF and TSMC introduced immersion lithography. Double-patterning was introduced at 32nm. Gate-last manufacturing was a feature of 28nm. FinFETs were introduced by Intel at 22nm and the rest of the industry at the 14/16nm node.

Companies sometimes introduce features and capabilities at different times. AMD and TSMC introduced immersion lithography at 40/45nm, but Intel waited until 32nm to use that technique, opting to roll out double-patterning first. GlobalFoundries and TSMC began using double-patterning more at 32/28nm. TSMC used gate-last construction at 28nm, while Samsung and GF used gate-first technology. But as progress has gotten slower, we’ve seen companies lean more heavily on marketing, with a greater array of defined “nodes.” Instead of waterfalling over a fairly large numerical space (90, 65, 45) companies like Samsung are launching nodes that are right on top of each other, numerically speaking:

I think you can argue that this product strategy isn’t very clear, because there’s no way to tell which process nodes are evolved variants of earlier nodes unless you have the chart handy. But a lot of the explosion in node names is basically marketing.

Why Do People Claim Intel 7nm and TSMC/Samsung 10nm Are Equivalent?

While node names are not tied to any specific feature size, and some features have stopped scaling, semiconductor manufacturers are still finding ways to improve on key metrics. The chart below is drawn from WikiChip, but it combines the known feature sizes for Intel’s 10nm node with the known feature sizes for TSMC’s and Samsung’s 7nm node. As you can see, they’re very similar:


Image by ET, compiled from data at WikiChip

The delta 14nm / delta 10nm column shows how much each company scaled a particular feature down from its previous node. Intel and Samsung have a tighter minimum metal pitch than TSMC does, but TSMC’s high-density SRAM cells are smaller than Intel’s, likely reflecting the needs of different customers at the Taiwanese foundry. Samsung’s cells, meanwhile, are even smaller than TSMC’s. Overall, however, Intel’s 10nm process hits many of the key metrics as what both TSMC and Samsung are calling 7nm.

Individual chips may still have features that depart from these sizes due to particular design goals. The information manufacturers provide on these numbers are for a typical expected implementation on a given node, not necessarily an exact match for any specific chip.

There have been questions about how closely Intel’s 10nm+ process (used for Ice Lake) reflects these figures (which I believe were published for Cannon Lake). It’s true that the expect specifications for Intel’s 10nm node may have changed slightly, but 14nm+ was an adjustment from 14nm as well. Intel has stated that it is still targeting a 2.7x scaling factor for 10nm relative to 14nm, so we’ll hold off on any speculation about how 10nm+ may be slightly different.

Pulling It All Together

The best way to understand the meaning of a new process node is to think of it as an umbrella term. When a foundry talks about rolling out a new process node, what they are saying boils down to this:

“We have created a new manufacturing process with smaller features and tighter tolerances. In order to achieve this goal, we have integrated new manufacturing technologies. We refer to this set of new manufacturing technologies as a process node because we want an umbrella term that allows us to capture the idea of progress and improved capability.”

Any additional questions on the topic? Drop them below and I’ll answer them.

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Ice Lake Benchmarks Paint a Complex Picture for Intel’s Latest CPU

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Intel dropped a lot of Ice Lake news today, including an embargo lift on performance data concerning the new CPU. ExtremeTech was not aware that Intel had held a testing event in which reporters from various sites were invited to benchmark Ice Lake under controlled conditions and did not include this data in our initial coverage earlier today. We have reached out to Intel to clarify the situation, given that we were on hand at Architecture Day last winter to report on the initial Ice Lake CPU architecture and have covered Intel’s foundry research and developments for the past eight years.

Now that we actually know what CPU performance factually looks like, we’ve got a much better basis for discussing it relative to Intel’s Whiskey Lake. Our sister site PCMag has done a thorough comparison of Ice Lake against Whiskey Lake, with the Core i7-8565U represented in multiple form factors and systems from different OEMs. That’s actually incredibly useful because it shows just how large the gap between laptops can be, and how important proper testing (and thermals) are.

We’re going to excerpt benchmarks from the PCMag article and highly recommend you read the full story for that publication’s in-depth analysis. Let’s start with Cinebench R15:


Right off the bat, we can see that Ice Lake has some issues in a 15W envelope. The fact that the CPU’s single-threaded performance improves by 1.22x when given room to breathe in a 25W design is evidence that CPU power consumption is throttling the core badly. There’s only a 5 percent spread between the Core i7-8565U machines as far as single-thread is concerned. When we move to multi-threading, giving the CPU 1.66x more thermal headroom results in a 1.33x improvement in performance. Comparing 15W with 15W, the older Intel CPUs are all faster, particularly the HP Envy 13.SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce

In the 25W configuration, ICL wins the benchmark overall but is only 5 percent faster than the HP Envy 13. The Ryzen 5 2500U is outperformed (PCMag did not have a Ryzen 7 to compare against or an updated 3000-series APU in a mobile system).

POV-RAY shows some very interesting performance figures, in part because they’re completely different from the Handbrake distribution. The HP Envy 13, which was the fastest Core i7-8565U in Cinebench R15, is the slowest system in Handbrake (apart from the Pentium Gold, which doesn’t really count for our purposes). The Zenbook 13 is a whopping 20 percent faster than the 15W ICL testbed, though that system’s performance is on par with the Spectre X360 and Envy 13. Giving the CPU 25W to play with instead of 15W improves performance by about 24 percent, allowing ICL to beat past its rivals.

There are other results for the CPU-side available at PCMag and I’d look at them for a more complete picture. What we see in aggregate is that a 15W power envelope is a tight fit for the 10th Gen CPU family. Sometimes ICL is a bit faster than the 14nm Whiskey Lake CPUs, sometimes it’s slower, but we don’t see much evidence of improvement in the lower power envelope.

At the same time, however, we also see substantial variation in 14nm Core i7-8565U results. This isn’t surprising; Intel started giving OEMs more freedom to design SKUs back when Core M debuted, but all systems are not created equal. Certain laptops may be noticeably faster than others in certain circumstances. We recently talked about how increased variation in silicon performance explains many of AMD’s decisions around 7nm and the company’s Ryzen 7 products. This is a variation of a decidedly different sort, but that’s actually the point. Silicon companies have begun to design around variance in many ways because simply annihilating it has proven either prohibitively expensive or downright impossible.

That addresses the CPU component of Ice Lake. What about the GPU? Here, the news is much more positive.

In Rise of the Tomb Raider Low, ICL can maintain 40fps at 1366×768 and 26fps at 1920×1080. Interestingly, giving the system more headroom for power took the score down, not up at 768p and held it constant in 1080p. AMD’s lower-end Vega 8 does not compete well here, and while Vega 11 would provide some additional GPU headroom, it’s unlikely to completely close the gap. Only the MX150 and MX250-equipped laptops, with Nvidia GPUs,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce beat out Intel’s integrated graphics.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege is impressive, with equal performance between the 15W and 25W CPUs. Again, only the MX150 and MX250 exceed Intel’s integrated performance. AMD’s Vega 8 turns in playable performance at 1366×768 but doesn’t meet the minimum 30fps threshold we consider minimum for 1080p gaming.

All of the GPU figures basically follow this pattern. You’ll see AMD hold its ground better in some than others, but Intel is ahead on the whole. Vega 11 would improve these results, but likely not by enough to change the outcome in most games.

Implications and Conclusion

In our earlier coverage written today, I implied that one reason for Intel’s lower CPU clocks might be because Intel used a larger amount of TDP to provide GPU performance. While there’s probably some truth to this, the 15W-25W performance pattern is different for CPUs compared with GPUs. Moving from 15W to 25W almost always improves CPU performance. Moving from 15W to 25W improves synthetic GPU benchmark performance on ICL, but has a weaker impact on actual games. Only World of Tanks enCore appears to respond strongly to the additional TDP headroom, suggesting that in most cases, that additional wattage isn’t going to the GPU — it’s being used to accelerate the CPU.

Gains for Ice Lake relative to Whiskey Lake are fairly anemic, though this can vary dramatically depending on which Whiskey Lake system you own now. When there’s a 10-15 percent variance between different systems equipped with the same processor, that’s obviously going to impact how ICL compares. Overall, we’d say Ice Lake is comparable to Whiskey Lake — sometimes faster, sometimes slower, but rarely dramatically distinguishing itself one way or the other.

The GPU improvements, on the other hand, are enormous. Assuming that the Ryzen 7 3700U and 3500USEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce are a relatively modest improvement on their predecessors, AMD will need to have 7nm APUs in-market to take ICL on. We have no timeline on when that may happen. Of course, AMD is currently focused on the desktop and server spaces, which means we don’t even know when Intel’s 10nm silicon will face off against AMD’s 7nm in-market.

The third pillar is power consumption and battery life, and we don’t know yet how ICL compares on these metrics; Intel forbid testing the sample laptop for such things. Right now, Ice Lake delivers massive improvements in one area, settles for small gains to small losses in another, and offers an unknown level of improvement in the third. Gamers who want some ability to play on thin-and-lights should be the major beneficiaries of the improvements we’ve seen thus far. If this performance holds, AMD will either need to hit back at Intel on 7nm or see its long domination of the integrated mobile GPU market finally fall — which isn’t honestly a sentence I used to think I’d ever type.

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Intel Reveals Clock Speeds, GPU Specs for 10nm Ice Lake Mobile SoCs

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Last week, Intel announced that it had begun shipping 10nm Ice Lake CPUs to its OEM customers to support a holidays 2019 launch. Today, the company is sharing more details about Ice Lake and the new chips it will launch on 10nm later this year. The company has been revealing details about Ice Lake and its architecture, Sunny Cove, since Architecture Day last winter. As “Holidays 2019” draws closer, we’re starting to find out more information.

With 10nm, Intel is pushing forward on multiple fronts. CPU-wise, the company expects to offer up to 1.18x improved IPC, though that gain is largely offset by declines in top-end frequency. Intel’s own slides show a relatively small gain in terms of raw performance over and above Whiskey Lake,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce though users with older systems based on Broadwell or Skylake will see much larger improvements.


Ice Lake packs a grab bag of improvements intended to appeal to multiple different markets. Boosted AI inferencing performance is potentially appealing to those working in the field, though I’m not sure if any practical applications actually use AI or AVX-512 on the desktop yet. Faster Wi-Fi via 802.11ax, aka Wi-Fi 6, should boost download speeds. Thunderbolt 3 is not integrated on-die with Intel Ice Lake, though actually offering that connectivity to customers will still require a degree of external hardware and is therefore somewhat dependent on OEMs to make available. Intel has stated, however, that the costs and amount of external components will be smaller than usual.

Mobile GPU performance is said to be significantly stronger, courtesy of a wider GPU core and more efficient execution. Ice Lake will support either dual-channel DDR4-3200 or LPDDR4X-3733 in four 32-bit channels. Overall power consumption is said to be similar between both standards, though the LPDDR4X systems will top out at 32GB, while the DDR4-3200 rigs will support up to 64GB. Our slideshow on the Sunny Cove architecture and the various improvements baked into the core is presented below:

One new bit of data Intel is revealing today is the actual SKUs and products. Here’s the lineup of 10th Generation mobile parts, with data on their wattage envelopes, clocks, and GPU configurations.


Let’s start with the 28W CPU. The best comparison to that is the Core i7-8569U, a 28W 4C/8T CPU with a 2.8GHz base clock, 4.7GHz boost clock, and 128MB of onboard EDRAM to improve the performance of its integrated Iris Plus Graphics 655 solution. We will immediately grant that we expect Gen 11 Intel graphics to be faster than the EDRAM-boosted solutions the company has used before. We also note that the 10nm Ice Lake Core i7-1068G7 supports faster RAM (DDR4-3200 / LPDDR4-3733 as compared to DDR4-2400). Intel CPUs typically haven’t benefited as much from faster RAM clocks as AMD CPUs, but the fact that Intel is increasing its RAM clock suport with 10nm may mean this has changed.

Both CPU and GPU maximum frequencies have declined. The Core i7-8569U has a maximum GPU frequency of 1.2GHz, while the Core i7-1068G7 supports a maximum frequency of 1.1GHz. Base frequency for the 10th Generation core CPU has dropped 18 percent. Since we know that Intel TDPs are based solely on boost clocks, the implication is that the company had to give up base clock to make its TDP figures.

The 15W minimum frequencies have also come down. The Core i7-1065G7 has a base frequency of 1.3GHz, while the comparative Core i7-8665U is a 1.9GHz CPU with a 4.8GHz base clock. That’s a 32 percent reduction in minimum frequency. I don’t want to sound negative on Ice Lake before we see the chips. It’s possible that some of the clock pulldown has been to make room for the GPU. But this is a point we’ll be watching closely — Intel may have had to strike a difficult balance between allocating TDP for CPU versus GPU operations.

Word from Intel is that Ice Lake will be built on a 10nm+ process, which puts that question to rest. The little-used Cannon Lake Core i3-8121 will evidently be the sole representative of Intel’s base 10nm process. 10nm+ will debut with Ice Lake. Whether Intel has a 10nm++ process in the works or will proceed directly to 7nm for future CPUs isn’t something the company has disclosed yet.

For more on this and some initial benchmarks, read PCMag’s Intel ‘Ice Lake’ Benchmarked: How 10nm CPUs Could Bring Major GPU Grunt to New Laptops.

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Intel Is Finally Shipping Ice Lake in Volume

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During Intel’s quarterly conference call last week, CEO Bob Swan confirmed that the company is, at long last, moving into volume production on 10nm. If you thought Intel had basically given up on scaling its process technology into the new node, that’s not the case.

Swan made a number of comments related to 10nm during the call. Ice Lake servers have been sampled to enterprise customers, with early production expected in 1H 2020 and volume production in the back half of the year. Cooper Lake (14nm) will share a platform with Ice Lake when those server parts launch in 2020. Regarding 10nm client launches, Swan said:

We began shipping Ice Lake clients in the second quarter supporting systems on the shelf for the holiday selling season and expect to ship Agilex, our first 10-nanometer FPGA later this year.

We now have two factories in full production on 10-nanometer. We are also on track to launch 7-nanometer in 2021. With a roughly 2x improvement in density over 10-nanometer, our 7-nanometer process, which will be comparable to competitors’ 5-nanometer nodes, and will put us on pace with historical Moore’s Law scaling.

Mobile in Q4 2019, Server in 2H 2020, Desktop …

Intel’s current plans for Ice Lake/Sunny Cove in its desktop CPUSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce product families are unclear. If a Dell roadmap that leaked earlier this year is accurate, Comet Lake will refresh Intel’s product line through Q4 2020 with up to 10 cores, but still built on 14nm. We’ve seen various predictions about the state of Hyper-Threading; the most recent ones claimed Intel will reactivate it after removing it for the 9th Generation family. Restoring Hyper-Threading support would definitely improve performance compared with not-having it on various parts, but whether Intel will actually take this step is still uncertain.

Swan was actually rather open about expecting competitive pressure from AMD. While Intel has been talking a great deal about the possibilities of a $300B expanded TAM (based on the full valuation of the spaces Intel competes in), he also took care to say that Intel expects to be facing a reinvigorated AMD.

“Stepping back and just looking at the macro environment over the next several years and particularly in the second half of the year on the data center side, what we’ve indicated is it will be a much more competitive environment,” Swan said. Later in the call, he spoke to the topic again:

And our expectations over time are to protect our market share position, while continuing to invest in new prospects for growth… I’d say the competitive intensity on the PC side started probably in the first part of 2017. And during that time frame, we’ve either protect our position, while moving end customers up to higher performance products that generate higher ASPs and with that have the capacity also to fight back and meet comps in targeted areas, where we need to.

This is pretty frank talk, by Wall Street standards. The one thing Swan doesn’t do is speak to when we might see Ice Lake/Sunny Cove CPUs on desktops. Right now, it looks as though we’re still looking at a 2021 time frame for desktop 10nm, and 7nm chips are supposed to debut that year as well, though Intel has committed to leading the 7nm charge with GPUs, not CPUs.


The Ice Lake mobile CPUs that Intel has unveiled to date are reputed to be up to 1.18x more efficient than Intel’s old Sky Lake CPUs in terms of IPC, but Intel has given back a great deal of its clock speed gains over the past four years to deliver that improvement. The Skylake Core i7-6660U was a 2.4GHz CPU with a 3.4GHz maximum clock speed. Ice Lake is 1.18x faster in terms of IPC and runs at up to 4.1GHz. The real-world gains should, therefore, be significantly larger, once clock and IPC are both factored in — except, Ice Lake is the follow-up to Whiskey Lake, and the improvements relative to that chip are less certain. With a 4.8GHz single-core maximum, Whiskey Lake was clocked up to 1.41x faster than Skylake in the first place.

In short, it’s possible Ice Lake will be much faster than Skylake but roughly on par with Whiskey Lake. Given that we have no idea what the performance or power characteristics of Intel’s next-generation mobile GPU are, we’d also need to know how its power consumption and capabilities factor into Intel’s maximum defined clock speeds. The GPU configuration is much wider on these new chips, and that could definitely be eating into the total headroom Intel gives these processors. 15W, after all, is not a terribly large envelope.

With Intel’s 10nm desktop chips nowhere in sight and AMD’s latest Ryzen 3000 APUsSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce still based on its 12nm second-generation Ryzen refresh, we have an amusing situation to consider. Even once Intel has shipped 10nm chips, its 10nm chips will not compete against AMD’s 7nm chips. That won’t happen until either AMD ships 7nm mobile parts or Intel ships 10nm desktop and server parts. We haven’t heard anything about a 7nm APU refresh in 2019. Assuming AMD doesn’t pull one of its hat, we may not see AMD 7nm face-off with Intel 10nm until sometime between April and June 2020.

Granted, I don’t think AMD is going to complain about having room to stretch its metaphorical legs. But normally when two companies start talking about their cutting-edge process node deployments, we expect to actually see CPUs facing off against each other shortly thereafter.

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