Intel's new laptop CPU lineup is a lot like the old CPU lineup.
Enlarge / Intel’s new laptop CPU lineup is a lot like the old CPU lineup.

Intel

Intel’s 13th-generation desktop CPU refresh is interesting because processors throughout the lineup are picking up extra clusters of four or eight E-cores, significantly improving how they handle heavily threaded tasks. The new laptop CPUs that Intel has also announced are much less interesting—the ones that will end up in most laptops increase clock speeds and support faster memory but are otherwise mostly identical to the 12th-generation CPUs they’re replacing.

This is not uncommon; Intel’s 7th generation refresh was similarly low-key, and the 10th generation mostly was, too. The days when every year would bring either a new architecture or a new manufacturing process are long gone. Just know when you’re shopping for a laptop that the jump from the 11th to the 12th generation represents a much larger performance leap (and, sometimes, a battery life reduction) than the jump from the 12th to the 13th gen.

Intel spent most of its presentation talking about the high-end HX-series processors, mainly because they’re the only ones significantly different from their 12th-gen predecessors. HX laptop processors are essentially Intel’s Raptor Lake desktop CPUs, repackaged to be soldered down to a laptop motherboard. Like those desktop CPUs, they all include additional E-cores relative to 12th-gen CPUs. The Core i9 CPUs and the i7-13850HX also support faster DDR5-5600 RAM, although the others stick with DDR5-4800.

Despite the addition of extra E-cores, the boosted cache, and increased peak clock speeds for both P-cores and E-cores, Intel’s base and turbo power figures remain the same as they were for the 12th-gen CPUs, which hopefully means that battery life won’t take a hit.

Moving down the stack, the H-, P-, and U-series CPUs don’t change much compared to their predecessors. They still max out at 14 cores (six P-cores, eight E-cores), they have the same Iris Xe integrated GPUs, and they include the same amount of cache and the same base and turbo power specs as before. They officially support faster DDR5 and LPDDR5 memory speeds, and both CPU and GPU clock speeds edge upward compared to the 12th-gen. But otherwise, these refreshes mostly tread water, and you shouldn’t hold out for a 13th-gen laptop if you can find an otherwise identical 12th-gen laptop for cheaper.

One footnote for the U-series for connoisseurs of Intel’s branding efforts: The Intel Processor U300 at the bottom of the stack would probably have been called a Pentium or Celeron processor in past generations. But Intel said last year that it would be retiring both brands in favor of “Intel Processor” in 2023.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of “Gold” or “Silver” modifier to tell you anything about the underlying architecture of the Intel Processor you’re looking at; an Intel Processor U300 is based on the Raptor Lake architecture and includes a single P-core alongside its four E-cores, but the N-series Intel Processors that Intel also announced today don’t have any P-cores and will feel quite a bit slower as a result.

All E-cores for cheap laptops

The last few processors Intel introduced are intended for low-end devices and replace the (now-discontinued) N-series Celeron and Pentium processors from previous generations. New Core i3-N chips and N-series Intel Processors exclusively use the Gracemont E-cores from the larger Alder and Raptor Lake chips, without the benefit of P-cores for more demanding tasks.

The Core i3 chips include a total of eight E-cores, while the Intel Processor N100 and N200 both use four E-cores. All the chips support LPDDR5, DDR5, and DDR4 memory, and all include integrated GPUs with either 32 or 24 EUs. Aside from core count, the Core i3 chips have higher GPU clock speeds (1.25 GHz, up from 750 MHz) and slightly higher power requirements than the Intel Processors, though.

Historically, these N-series CPUs have been disappointing performers even in the context of budget laptops. But there’s reason to believe these Gracemont-based CPUs could perform reasonably well in everyday use. Intel has always used 2015’s 6th-generation Skylake chips as a comparison point for its E-cores, saying that the E-cores perform roughly as well as Skylake, while using a fraction of the power. They’re pretty old, but quad-core Skylake CPUs still feel fine for browsing and doing office work. Hopefully, the new N-series chips will raise the bar for the ultra-budget laptops they usually end up in.

Listing image by Intel

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