New chips include dedicated AI processors and beefed up integrated Intel Arc GPUs
Intel has launched the Intel Core Ultra, its first laptop processor to include a neural processing unit (NPUs) specifically designed for AI acceleration.
Intel Core Ultra comprises two product families: the Core Ultra H-Series and Core Ultra U-Series. Both processors are likely to find their way into ultra-portable mobile workstations in 2024.
The H-Series features up to sixteen cores, comprising Performance cores (P-Cores), Efficient cores (E-Cores) and new Low Power Efficient (LPE) cores, for very lightweight tasks. There’s also a built in Intel Arc GPU and an Intel AI Boost NPU, all within a base power of 28W and a max turbo power of 115W. The top end Intel Core Ultra 7 185H processor features 6P, 8E and 2LP cores, and has a max P-Core frequency of 5.1 GHz.
Intel executives bigged up the graphics performance of the new integrated Intel Arc GPU, with a view to reducing the need for a discrete GPU in some workflows. With the Intel Core Ultra 7 165H Intel claims gaming performance is between 9% and 100% faster than the Intel Core i7-1370P, a comparable processor from the previous generation. How this translates to performance in 3D CAD and other professional 3D applications remains to be seen. This will also depend on software optimisations, and we expect mobile workstations with Intel Core Ultra processors to include Intel Arc Pro GPU drivers.
The Intel Core Ultra U-Series uses much less power with a base power of 15W and a max power of 57W. It achieves this by reducing the number of P-Cores to two, while retaining the same number of E and LP cores. In single threaded CAD workflows, performance shouldn’t be far off that of the H-Series. However, users can expect significantly lower multi-threaded performance. The U-Series also has less powerful Intel graphics. The top-end Intel Core Ultra 7 165U has a max P-Core frequency of 4.9 GHz.
It wouldn’t be a processor launch in 2023 without shouting about AI and Intel Core Ultra is all about bringing AI inferencing to laptops. Intel states the new chip is GenAI ready and has three AI engines: CPU, GPU and NPU. The NPU is designed for sustained AI workloads and to offload AI to increase battery life. Meanwhile the GPU is for AI-accelerated digital content creation and the CPU for low-latency AI workloads.
It’s still very early days for AI in product development, but Intel highlighted the importance of software compatibility, stating that its AI PC Acceleration Program now has more than 100 independent software vendors (ISVs), including Epic Games (Unreal Engine), and more than 300 AI-accelerated features that will be ‘uniquely optimised’ for Intel Core Ultra processors. This is three times more AI apps and frameworks than any competing silicon vendor, according to Intel.
Meanwhile, Intel has also launched its 5th Gen Intel Xeon ‘Emerald Rapids’ processors with up to 64-cores. These high-end chips are designed primarily for servers and cloud but will also likely find their way into dual socket workstations, such as the Lenovo ThinkStation PX. Intel did not announce any new workstation-specific Xeon processors to follow on from the ‘Sapphire Rapids’ intel Xeon W-3400 Series which launched earlier this year (read our review).