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Intel 11th-gen Core i7-1185G7 Tiger Lake Preview: It's (mostly) faster than Ryzen

Intel's 11th-gen Core i7 easily outpaces AMD's mighty Ryzen 7 in graphics, AI and lightly-threaded tasks

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11th-gen Tiger Lake CPU Performance

With graphics out of the way, we move onto the choppier waters of CPU testing. We have no doubt that Intel wins graphics, but on the other side of the aisle it’s more nuanced.

We’ll kick this off with the good news for Intel: awesomely high clock speeds. With the Core i7-1185G7 capable of hitting 4.8GHz on boost, and 4.3GHz on all cores, it’s hands-down the winner on lightly threaded tasks. You can see this in one of the tasks that typically leans on frequency more than core count: Microsoft Office. When paired with Microsoft Office, PCMark 10’s Applications test runs the computer through Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Edge and measures its response doing mundane office tasks. It’s about as real-world as you can get because you’re actually using Microsoft Office.

The 11th Core i7-1185G7 comes in about 24 percent faster than the lower-clocked 10th-gen Ice Lake Core i7. In a reversal, the 10th-gen Comet Lake Core i7 using the older 14nm cores actually outpaces the 10th-gen Ice Lake chip. Why? We suspect the reason the 6-core 10th-gen Comet Lake U is faster is its higher boost clock compared to the 10th-gen Ice Lake. It’s not enough to beat the new 11th-gen Tiger Lake, which has a 16-percent advantage over it.

Ryzen 7 4800U boasts more cores, but it also can’t hit clocks like Intel can, which we think is the reason the 11th-gen Core i7-1185G7 comes in 30 percent faster than Ryzen. That’s a hands-down win for the 11th-gen chip.

One thing we want to note: While it’s demonstrably faster in the results, is it really something you’d notice while you churn through an email about TPS reports or work on an Excel spreadsheet for corporate accounting? That’s hard to say, but the numbers, at least, give 11th-gen Tiger Lake the win.

tiger lake pcmark 10 applications IDG

Maybe Cinebench ain’t so bad, Intel

Intel has long argued that Cinebench is mostly irrelevant to those who use 13-and 14-inch laptops, because less than 1 percent of people actually do 3D modelling on a tiny laptop. That’s a fair point, but you can also use Cinebench to measure single-threaded performance.  We use the newest version of Cinebench R20, which uses AVX, AVX2, AVX512, and also takes at least three times as long to run as the older R15 version. That typically hurts chips that rely on boost clocks but doesn’t matter much in single-threaded mode.

Against the lower-clocked 10th-gen Ice Lake chip, the 11th-gen Tiger Lake is an impressive 32 percent faster in single-threaded performance. Even more impressive is the fact that the Tiger Lake chip really only has a 23-percent clock boost advantage over the 10th-gen Ice Lake chip.

The 10th-gen Comet Lake U chip has on paper a boost clock of 4.7GHz, just 2 percent slower than the 11th-gen Tiger Lake’s 4.8GHz. In actual performance in a single-threaded task, however, the 11th-gen Tiger Lake is actually 25 percent faster. Why? As we mentioned earlier, Cinebench R20 touches AVX, AVX2 and AVX512 during its run. On older Intel chips, that typically results in lowering of clock speeds, as the instructions tend to be power-hungry. The test also takes quite a while to run, and the 4.7GHz 10th-gen Comet Lake U quickly fades off as the test grinds on. It seems to be a limitation of the older, hotter 14nm process on which Comet Lake U is built.

The Ryzen 7 4800U, with its max boost clock of 4.2GHz, actually beats the other two Intel chips. But it can’t touch the new 11th-gen Tiger Lake chip, which appears to hit and hold the 4.8GHz without issues. That ends up giving the 11th-gen Tiger Lake an impressive 23-percent advantage.

What this test and the PCMark 10 app test should tell you is Tiger Lake is the new ruler of single-threaded performance. There’s nothing else that remotely comes close. 

tiger lake cinebench r20 1t IDG

Ryzen’s core advantage

The problem for Tiger Lake, as you knew was coming, is the other side of the equation in its fight with Ryzen: Core gap. The Ryzen 7 4800U’s 8 cores with SMT yield very real performance in applications that can use them, even if they are specialized. You can see that in Cinebench R20’s test using all available threads of the CPUs. The Ryzen simply walks away from every single Intel CPU here, turning in a score 53 percent faster than the 11th-gen Tiger Lake. That’s a crushing advantage. Intel will argue that very few people are doing 3D modelling, but that doesn’t change the numbers.

If it’s any consolation, 11th-gen Tiger Lake with 4 cores is basically as fast as a 10th-gen Comet Lake U with 6 cores. That either says Tiger Lake is great, or it says that Comet Lake U just did not age well.

tiger lake cinebench r20 nt IDG

We also ran V-Ray Next 4.10.7, another rendering benchmark. The 8-core Ryzen 7 4800U comes in 48 percent faster than the 11th-gen Tiger Lake.

tiger lake v ray next IDG

In the Corona renderer, the Ryzen is 54 percent faster than Tiger Lake. We could go on with other rendering tests, but we’d be wasting your time and our time. The truth is that despite losing in lighter tasks, Ryzen 4000 simply crushes it in heavy, multi-threaded tasks.

tiger lake corona IDG

Despite Intel’s proclamations that no one does 3D rendering on a 3-pound laptop with a tiny 14-inch screen, the core count advantage extends to other areas too. We didn’t do advanced encoding using the integrated video engines of the chips, but we did do a file conversion using an older version of HandBrake. You can set HandBrake to use the video engines in new chips, or you can use the cores too. Many older applications still use cores.

The result is no surprise: While Tiger Lake easily beats its siblings, the Ryzen crushes it again, taking about 34 percent less time to convert our 1080p file. The basic summary is that if you need core count, Ryzen wins every time.

tiger lake handbrake IDG

11th-gen AI Performance

Intel would say the brave new world is about AI, which can be used to upsample images, or sort your terabytes of photos for you. When Intel first started talking about desktop and laptop-based AI years ago, the actual applications that used it were nowhere to be found. Today, however, we’re in far better shape. As much as AMD fanboys want to dismiss AI performance, it is as valid to look at as multi-core performance.

nero ai photo tagger IDG

For our tests, we used three consumer applications already on the market. The first is Nero AI Photo Tagger. It’s currently a free application and uses Intel’s open-source OpenVINO to implement Deep Learning Boost on chips that support it. To test it, we took 4,200 photos taken with DSLR and camera phone and tasked AI Photo Tagger to sort through them and identify what’s in the pictures.

When it’s done, AI Photo Tagger spits out two numbers: the total time spent to do the job, and the total amount of AI time spent on each recognizing each image. Total time includes loading the image, performing the preview, and other housekeeping tasks. In total time the 11th-gen Tiger Lake takes about 13 percent less time than the Ryzen 7 4800U set to its 28-watt setting with Dynamic Tuning. Give the Tiger Lake a little more power, and its lead opens up to about 20 percent.

tiger lake ai photo tagger total time IDG

But as we said, the application also breaks down how long it takes each CPU to recognize the photo. The 11th-gen Tiger Lake actually takes 40 percent less time than the Ryzen 7 4800U, and 57 percent less time than the 14nm, 6-core 10th-gen Comet Lake U.

tiger lake ai photo tagger ai total time IDG

The second AI task was Topaz’s Gigapixel AI. The application uses AI to upscale images in a manner that is generally superior to simpler algorithms used in photo applications. For this test, we took a single picture of a P-38 fighter shot on an EOS 1D Mk IIn DSLR. The camera is ancient and it shows in its 8.2MP sensor. To simulate a real-world task, we order Gigapixel AI to upscale the image by a factor of 6X using AI. The result is another big win for the 11th-gen Tiger Lake, with the time reduced by a whopping 82 percent over the Ryzen 7 4800U chip.

We should note that the performance of the 10th-gen Ice Lake should have been better, but we were unable to launch OpenVINO on it. Meanwhile, the 10th-gen Comet Lake U did allow us to enable OpenVINO, but it made very little difference.

tiger lake topaz gigapixel ai upscale IDG

In the interest of full disclosure, there are two ways to run Gigapixel AI. One is using the CPU along with OpenVINO, the other is to let it also enable “discrete graphics,” which we’re told actually flips it over to OpenGL mode. We ran all the laptops in this mode, which actually gives the Ryzen’s Radeon cores the edge. The results make sense mostly, as the Xe does a decent job while the older Iris Plus lags a good clip behind. Over in the parking lot next door and not even on the field is the Intel HD graphics in the Comet Lake U chip. 

tiger lake topaz gigapixel ai upscale igp opengl IDG

Our final AI test uses Topaz Video Enhance AI to convert a 720p video shot on an old Kodak FLIP-style video camera to 4K resolution. For the test we used the Theia model to AI upscale the image.

Our thought is someone with an SD card of old family videos and a 4K TV might want to see these videos blown up to modern standards. You can read Joel Hruska’s obsession with using Topaz Video Enhance AI to create his own remastered version of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and see just how cool AI-based upscaling can be.

The 11th-gen Tiger Lake takes a little under two hours to AI-upscale our video, while the Ryzen 7 4800U takes a little over five hours to complete the task. The 10th-gen Ice Lake wasn’t able to run Open VIno in Topaz Gigapixel AI, but it seems to work here, taking a little over three hours. The 6-core 10th-gen Comet Lake U, though? Yeah, it took more than 11 hours to AI upscale the image.

tiger lake topaz video enhance ai IDG

Conclusion: Should you buy a Tiger Lake laptop?

We’ll break down our takeaways for the 11th-gen Tiger Lake into three areas that matter most for the consumer. 

The first category is gaming. While Ryzen 7 4800U actually does pretty well, the clear winner is the 11th-gen Core i7-1185G7 Tiger Lake CPU. When you’re talking 30 percent faster in games, that’s simply nothing to scoff at. Both are actually are decent 720p chips for newer games, and 1080p for older games, but you can only declare the winner to be Tiger Lake. If you care about gaming in an ultra-light laptop, go with Tiger Lake.

The second category is still relatively new, but it’s pretty clear that applications that support AI favor Tiger Lake. Apps are still rare, but they’re also pretty cool. The image recognition and AI upscaling can accomplish it far faster than lessor chips. If you really believe that AI is the future, then Tiger Lake is the winner again.

The last category is conventional CPU performance. For single-threaded and lightly threaded tasks, Tiger Lake wins big. For multi-threaded apps though, Ryzen is monster.

To help you understand each chip’s strength, we took Cinebench R15 and asked it run while manually selecting from 1 to 16 threads. The scores are below.  You can see where Ryzen has the advantage in red, and where Tiger Lake has the advantage in blue.

core i7 1185g7 vs ryzen 7 4800u threadscaling IDG

One problem with the above chart is the scale really makes it difficult to judge performance, so we break it down by percent difference below. You can see that the Tiger Lake is a monster itself compared to the Ryzen with the high clocks. It holds onto its advantage from 1 to 4 threads, but it starts to take on water as you increase threads in a task. Basically, if you live on the left side of this chart (which is primarily Office, browsing, and most photo editing), the better choice is Tiger Lake. If, however, you live on the right side of this chart with 3D modelling, CPU-based encoding, and other thread heavy tasks, the clear choice is Ryzen.

core i7 1185g7 vs ryzen 7 4800u threadscaling percentage IDG

The good news for Intel that it finally has a CPU that can stare down Ryzen. There are soft spots where Ryzen is clearly superior, but Tiger Lake has a legitimate claim to the throne with its superior performance in gaming and AI. It’s stupidly fast at lightly-threaded performance.

This fight isn’t over. AMD has more to come. But at least Tiger Lake is indeed a CPU worthy of being in the ring.

Bonus meme: We’ll close this review out with an Internet meme of “can it run Crysis?” If you read our 10th Gen Ice Lake preview, you already know the answer, but 11th Gen Tiger Lake runs it faster. We ran Crysis at an old school resolution of 1024x768 on its Very High Setting and DirectX 10 option. We should note that the 13-year-old benchmark would only run in 64-bit on the Ryzen, and only in 32-bit on the Intel laptops. So, rather than an official result, consider this more of a meme result.

Correction: A previous version of this review used the incorrect version of the Ryzen 7 4800U model number. PCWorld regrets the error.

tiger lake crysis IDG

Yes, Tiger Lake can run Crysis.

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