Intel’s all-new processors are finally on the horizon - paving the way for even more efficient laptops and 2-in-1s.
After false starts and rumours that Intel had trashed its work on the redesigned processors altogether, Intel has finally announced the totally new series of Core i3, i5, i7 and i9 processors.
What's new about the 10th generation Core processors?
The microarchitecture the new chips are based on is codenamed Ice Lake. It promises around an 18 percent increase in performance alongside Wi-Fi 6 support and, naturally, Thunderbolt 3 for fast data transfer. Indeed, Ice Lake will be the first processors to natively integrate Thunderbolt.
Coincidentally, Thunderbolt 3 will be part of the new USB 4.0 standard.
Intel says the new chips have a vastly improved AI performance of around 2.5 times for things like facial recognition. There's also on-board Intel Iris Plus graphics based on its Gen11 graphics design offering a doubling in encoding speed and faster gaming using on-board graphics.
Intel says you'll get a doubling in frame rate at 1080p over a system using an 8th generation Core chip from last year.
When will we get Ice Lake laptops and desktops?
While these processors will be inside some laptops soon, they won't hit the mass market until late this year - expect them inside lots of notebooks announced at CES 2020.
This latest announcement doesn’t take away from the fact these new chips are later than a pizza driver that stops off for a sleep; they were originally slated for 2015.
It seems Intel’s engineers have had to go back to the drawing board because of a problematic approach - we’re guessing that meant there was a high error rate or poor yield on chips produced using the 10nm process.
When was Ice Lake originally previewed?
Speaking at an Intel Architecture Day conference in Silicon Valley in December 2018, Intel's Ronak Singhal previewed the Sunny Cove CPU core that will be the key part of the Ice Lake hardware.
Sunny Cove is based on the 10nm manufacturing process that will be the basis for the Ice Lake next-generation Core chips (as well as the next-gen Xeon server chips that may or may not be inside the next-generation Apple Mac Pro due this year - Intel is currently citing 2020 for these chips).
Dell's Sam Burd did come on stage at CES 2019 with Intel and show off an Ice Lake-powered XPS prototype that looked very much like a Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 - this new revised model has now been announced at Computex 2019.
Why Ice Lake is so important for Intel
The new chips can’t come soon enough for Intel: AMD’s Ryzen processors are reportedly making inroads into the admittedly-small PC builder market.
Intel seems to be doubling down on the PC market again since its latest foray into mobile chips ended in disaster. After Apple hooked back up with Qualcomm, it has stopped development work on producing 5G modems for smartphones – we had expected an Intel 5G modem to be a key component for the 5G iPhone in 2020 (probably known as the iPhone XI S if current naming conventions continue).
It's a crucial time for Intel despite its deep expertise in transistor density – rivals TSMC and Samsung have both started producing 7nm mobile processors this year and will turn their attention to producing 7nm processors for bigger devices. AMD’s Zen 2 architecture - also announced at Computex - uses 7nm.
Last year Intel also talked about Foveros, a new tech to package processors that means more complex processor dies can be stacked upon one another rather than having to be placed side-by-side. This could enable totally new device designs that are super thin and light.