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Intel announces its first new 'Lakefield' chips for the thinnest, lightest PCs

Lakefield is Intel's first five-core chip, made up of Intel Core-class and Atom-class processors inside the same stacked package.

Intel Lakefield
Intel

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On Wednesday, Intel officially announced two “Lakefield” chips, otherwise known as the 9-watt “Intel Core processor with Intel Hybrid Technology," which will be showcased in thin-and-light PCs like the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Book S

Intel’s Lakefield (originally announced in January 2019) is something entirely new: a hybrid chip that has Core-class cores for when performance is required, as well as low-power Atom-class cores for when battery life becomes a priority. And yes, they’re truly odd: each has five cores (and five threads), rather than four, or six.

Intel’s two new Lakefield chips include the 1.4GHz Core i5-L16G7 and the 0.8GHz Core i3-L13G4, each with a TDP of 7W. Intel says the Intel Core processor with Intel Hybrid Technology will be used in the thinnest and lightest designs, including single-screen, dual-screen, and foldable devices. (The Lakefield package measures 12x12x1mm.)  Only two Lakefield devices have been announced: June’s upcoming Galaxy Book S, as as well as the foldable Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold

“Intel Core processors with Intel Hybrid Technology are the touchstone of Intel’s vision for advancing the PC industry by taking an experience-based approach to designing silicon with a unique combination of architectures and IPs,” said Chris Walker, Intel corporate vice president and general manager of Mobile Client Platforms, in a statement. “Combined with Intel’s deepened co-engineering with our partners, these processors unlock the potential for innovative device categories of the future.”

Intel said last year that Lakefield would begin shipping in 2019, so it’s possible that the coronavirus delayed the rollout a bit.

lakefield perf Intel

Intel cited summed up Lakefield's performance in this way.

Intel Core processor with Intel Hybrid Technology (Lakefield) specifications

Intel is claiming that Lakefield is offering a 91 percent reduction in standby power (not active power consumption) compared to the "Amber Lake" 8th-gen Core Y-series chip. Lakefield is not, however, Intel’s most conservative design in terms of power. Intel’s existing “Ice Lake” Y-series chips go as low as 9 watts, while Intel’s 10th-gen “Comet Lake” Y-series chips consume 7 watts, and can scale down to 4.5 watts. Intel says its two Lakefield chips also consume 7 watts, with no apparent options to lower its power consumption further.

Intel laid out the specifications of its new Core i5 and i3 processors with Intel Hybrid Technology in this small chart, below. Because Intel will sell these chips directly to notebook makers, the company is not releasing any pricing. 

intel lakefield speeds and feeds Intel

Both of Intel’s Lakefield cores can enter into an overclocked turbo mode, but neither includes Hyper-Threading.

Combining "performance" CPU cores with separate low-power CPU cores is a technique that ARM has used for years to power the world's smartphones. But to date, it's picked an even number (and often an equal number) of power and performance cores. According to Ram Naik, a senior product manager at Intel's Client Computing Group, Intel, Intel chose a different route, selecting a single "Sunny Cove" core with four "Tremont" Atom cores.

"Clearly balancing both power and performance was really important, and what we arrived at to meet all those boundary conditions was one Sunny Cove core and four Tremont cores was the best combination," Naik said.

Likewise, Naik said that hyperthreading was disabled because of power concerns. There's more optimizations being done here, too: so far, Lakefield has been qualified only for Windows 10, not Linux. Naik also said that Intel's planned support is also just Windows 10, not Windows 10X. (Windows 10X was originally designed for dual-screen devices, but Microsoft has since walked this back to support single-screen PCs, at least initially.)

lakefield 2 Intel

Intel's Core processor with Intel Hybrid Technology is a system on a chip, with embedded memory as well as I/O.

There’s another twist: Because Lakefield stacks two logic dies and two layers of DRAM in the package, Lakefield doesn’t need to connect to external DRAM. But as you can see from the specs above, Intel doesn’t list the available included memory. Naik said, however, that Lakefield will be offered with 4GB and 8GB DRAM options, included in the package, which will be supplied by a third-party memory supplier.

Intel isn’t officially saying what process technology Lakefield is manufactured upon. Based upon the company’s presentation, however, we know that there’s a “base” die where the I/O appears, and a 10nm “compute” die. Intel said then that it could get away with using an older, cheaper 22nm process as the foundation for the base die, which includes I/O and Intel's Wi-Fi 6. Lakefield does not include support for 5G WWAN technology, however.

"It really depends on OEM interest, and implementation will really depend on future validation," Naik said.

lakefield 1 Intel

Here’s a more detailed look at how Lakefield (sorry, Intel’s  Core processors with Hybrid Technology) are put together.

It does appear, however, that Lakefield shares some elements with the “Iris Plus” graphics that Ice Lake includes. The Intel Core i7-1065G7 (Ice Lake) contains 64 Gen11 graphics EUs, as does the Core i5-L16G7 (Lakefield). The key difference here, however, is that Ice Lake’s EUs run at 1.1GHz, while Lakefield’s EUs run at “up to 0.5” gigahertz. Performance will obviously suffer, comparatively, though power efficiency should improve.

We’ve known how the Lakefield architecture works since last August, when Intel opened its doors to the Hot Chips academic conference and presented a deep dive on the Lakefield architecture itself. Rather than spread the cores out on a monolithic piece of silicon, Intel’s used its Foveros technology to perform die stacking. Lakefield’s stack consists of Intel’s “Sunny Cove” Core-class CPU designs (the CPU architecture in the Ice Lake chips), and Atom chips using the ”Tremont” architecture.

Intel’s not saying much about performance, though that’s probably not the focus of Intel’s new Core processors with Hybrid Technology. Intel said only that Lakefield will convert video clips up to 54 percent faster than older chips—though the point of comparison was the  Core i5-8200Y, the 8th-gen “Amber Lake” Core chip that debuted in 2018. (It will exceed the the i5-8200Y by 1.7X on an undefined 3DMark 11 graphics test, Intel added.) Intel used the same chip to make the claim that Lakefield is twice as fast on AI workloads, using the MLPerf banchmark. Overall, Intel’s claiming 12 percent faster performance on single-threaded integer apps, again versus the Core i5-8200Y.

This story was updated at 9:53 AM with new information from Intel. 

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