Intel’s Launching a New Low Power Chip to Rival Qualcomm In Super Thin PCs

Gregory Bryant, Intel senior vice president in the Client Computing Group at Intel Corporation's news event at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. (Image: Intel)
Gregory Bryant, Intel senior vice president in the Client Computing Group at Intel Corporation's news event at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. (Image: Intel)

Intel first unveiled a new kind of processor designed for slim PCs like 2-in-1s, foldable tablets, and dual-screen devices a year and a half ago at CES 2019. Now the first devices using the new processor, codenamed “Lakefield,” are on their way.

Unlike the common desktop or laptop CPUs, which have one chip per package Lakefield is a multi-chip processor in a single package with shared connections between them. It’s a unique architecture that Intel says allows it to pack more performance in a mobile phone-sized form. Lakefield is coming to market this month, starting with Samsung’s Galaxy Book S, before making its way to Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold later this year, which could come out around the same time as Microsoft’s Surface Neo.

Using Foveros 3D packaging and its own Hybrid Technology, Intel created chiplets, or dime-sized processors that are vertically stacked on top of one another, which allowed the company to not only shrink the overall size of the processor, but also gives the CPU the ability to handle multiple difference processes, like on-board graphics and integrated DRAM.

These Lakefield cores in particular stack two logic dies and two layers of DRAM together, which eliminates the need for external memory. Intel is not the first to use 3D stacking, but it is the first to achieve mass production.

Both its latest Core i5 and i3 Lakefield processors with Foveros and Hybrid Technology use a 10nm Sunny Cove core, which was supposed to succeed Palm Cove in late 2017. Palm Cove was supposed to be the true 10nm successor to Intel’s 14nm desktop Skylake processors.

In addition to the Sunny Cove core, there are also four Tremont cores to “balance power and performance optimisation for background,” said Intel. Tremont cores, are the latest version of Intel’s low power Atom processors — you know the ones that kicked off the netbook craze a decade ago. According to the company, Tremont cores can execute more instructions per cycle, so they are supposed to have far better performance than Intel’s previous low-power Atom architectures. While the big Sunny Cove core handles all the heavy work, the Tremont cores will handle background tasks.

Also, both processors are compatible with 32 and 64-bit Windows applications, so they can “deliver full Windows 10 application compatibility.” Both support Wi-Fi 6, or gigabit connectivity, and their integrated Gen 11 graphics supposedly have 1.7 times better performance than previous integrated graphics generations, as measured by 3DMark 11 on a Core i5-L16G7 versus a Core i7-8500Y. Intel also says it’s improved its video clip conversion rate in Handbrake by 54 per cent on Intel Core i5-L16G7 compared to the Core i5-8200Y.

Here are the specs for both models that will hit the market:

  • Core i5-L16G7 — 5-core/5-thread, Intel UHD graphics, 4MB cache, 7W TDP, 1.4GHz base clock, 1.8GHz boost clock (3.0Ghz max single core turbo), up to 0.5GHz max graphics frequency, and LPDDR4X4267 memory.
  • Core i3-L13G4 — 5-core/5-thread, Intel UHD graphics, 4MB cache, 7W TDP, 0.8GHz base clock, 1.3GHz boost clock (2.8Ghz max single core turbo), up to 0.5GHz max graphics frequency, and LPDDR4X4267 memory.

Samsung confirmed to Gizmodo that the Galaxy Book S with Intel’s processor will be available in selected markets in Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and Latin America. While the Samsung’s Galaxy Book S has been officially released, it’s the one with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx processor, so it will be interesting to see how Intel’s Lakefield CPU compares, considering there have been some rumours about the Core i5-L15G7’s multi-core performance compared to the Snapdragon 8cx.

Gizmodo has yet to hear from Lenovo about an exact release date on the ThinkPad X1 Fold. Originally, it was slated to release mid-2020, but it appears to have been quietly pushed back.

Microsoft’s Surface Neo is scheduled for release holiday 2020.