Intel’s hybrid Lakefield processors are now ready for prime time; should ARM worry?

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Updated: Jun 11, 2020 10:12 AM

Intel has been teasing its LakeField CPU(s) for months now, particularly highlighting their 3D stacked design, but it is only now that we are getting full details.

intelThe first batch of Intel Lakefield chips include the Core i5-L16G7 and the Core i3-L13G4.

Intel is ready to take on ARM and by extension, Qualcomm, Samsung, and Huawei, in a big way. On Wednesday night, Intel announced that its all new Intel Core processors with Intel Hybrid Technology, or simply, Lakefield processors are ready for prime time. Intel has been teasing its LakeField CPU(s) for months now, particularly highlighting their 3D stacked design, but it is only now that we are getting full details including information about the first wave of devices that will be based on these new processors. Generally speaking, Intel’s Lakefield processors are designed for ultra portable laptops, foldables and dual screen devices like the Microsoft Surface Neo (that’s apparently on hold now).

Even though these processors are largely based on Intel’s current 10th Gen Ice Lake chips, thereby sharing many features, they’ve been designed from scratch for a new class of thin, light and ultra portable devices. This is also the first time that Intel seems to be taking major cues from competition, ARM, to try and beat it at its own game. So, what’s new? A lot actually, but strictly speaking, Lakefield processors bring two big changes to how Intel usually does things.

With Lakefield, Intel has combined its Core and Atom architectures, bringing them together on a single die to help achieve a balance of power and efficiency (and battery life) at least in theory. This is similar to ARM’s Big.Little architecture, which is employed by Qualcomm in its Snapdragon, Samsung in its Exynos, and Huawei in its Hisilicon Kirin chipsets. More specifically, Lakefield processors have a five core and five thread setup, consisting of one high performance Sunny Cove core and four low-power Tremont cores.

Intel is taking these five CPU cores and integrating them with a UHD Graphics GPU, I/O, and DRAM, using its new 3D Foveros stacking technology. All of this entails a three layer chipset that is said to take up 56% smaller package area compared to an existing Intel Core i7-8500Y chipset and yet boasts of everything you need to run a computer.

The first batch of Intel Lakefield chips include the Core i5-L16G7 and the Core i3-L13G4. Both are 7W chips with the Core i5-L16G7 clocked higher at 1.4GHz while the Core i3-L13G4 has a base frequency of 0.8GHz. Samsung’s Galaxy Book S and Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold will be the first devices powered by Intel’s new Lakefield processors with others to follow.

Lakefield might just be what the doctor ordered to get Intel back in the game. Over the years, Intel has been criticized for its slowing performance gains, something that’s even pushing Apple to build its own custom ARM chips for future Macs. The premise of Lakefield is surely intriguing, it is possibly its best chance to compete with ARM too, but only time (and devices) will tell how things will turn out.

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