In­tel’s Whiskey Lake notebook chip launches, em­pha­siz­ing con­nec­tiv­ity this time around

Ex­pect only mod­est per­for­mance gains over last year’s model, as In­tel un­veils yet an­other gen­er­a­tion of 14nm In­tel Core pro­ces­sors for note­books.

PCWorld (USA) - - News - BY MARK HACHMAN

While In­tel’s new Whiskey Lake and Am­ber Lake mo­bile Core chips dif­fer from their pre­de­ces­sors mainly in terms of avail­able boost speed ( go. pc­world.com/bspd), In­tel’s mar­ket­ing spin will em­pha­size some­thing else: an “op­ti­mized for con­nec­tiv­ity” tagline in mar­ket­ing ma­te­ri­als for note­books and tablets sold with these new 8th-gen U- and Y-se­ries chips.

Rather than pitch the new pro­ces­sors as sim­ply faster, In­tel’s mes­sag­ing will em­pha­size the Gi­ga­bit Wi-fi con­nec­tiv­ity In­tel built into its six new chips. That may be be­cause In­tel’s chips are sim­ply be­com­ing harder to tell apart. These new 14nm Core chips are es­sen­tially the third it­er­a­tion of the orig­i­nal Sky­lake 14nm pro­ces­sor, though In­tel has shipped 14nm chips since 2014’s Broad­well gen­er­a­tion.

Here’s the num­ber that mat­ters, though: In­tel is promis­ing that Whiskey Lake/am­ber Lake will de­liver a 10-per­cent gen­er­a­tional im­prove­ment in per­for­mance on the most

re­cent Kaby Lake-r 8th-gen chips, and that Whiskey Lake is half again as fast as a 7th-gen­er­a­tion Core chip.

The story be­hind the story: In­tel’s mar­ket­ing fol­lows a con­sis­tent pat­tern: When the com­pany’s CPU trounces the com­pe­ti­tion, you’ll hear a lot of noise around clock speed, cores, and per­for­mance. When In­tel’s less sure of it­self, talk turns to plat­form-level im­prove­ments. In 2000, when Trans­meta thrust low-power mi­cro­pro­ces­sors into the spot­light, In­tel’s Cen­trino mes­sag­ing was all about its com­bi­na­tion of pro­ces­sor, chipset, and wire­less. In­tel isn’t feel­ing quite the same pres­sure from AMD, but the em­pha­sis on Wi-fi is a tell it’s still sen­si­tive.

SPEEDS AND FEEDS

For now, there are three pro­ces­sors in In­tel’s U-se­ries (Whiskey Lake) fam­ily, and three in the Y-se­ries (Am­ber Lake) fam­ily. Ex­pect to see the 15-watt U-se­ries chips in thin-an­d­light and con­ven­tional lap­tops, while the 5-watt Y-se­ries chips will be re­served for two-in-ones and tablets, es­pe­cially fan­less ver­sions. All of the Whiskey Lake and Am­ber Lake chips in­clude Hy­per-thread­ing, max­ing out at 4 cores.

The new chips in­clude: the 1.8GHZ Core i7-8656u, the 1.6GHZ Core i5-8265u, and the 2.1GHZ Core i3-8145u. In ad­di­tion, the Y-se­ries in­cludes the 1.5GHZ Core i7-8500y, the 1.3GHZ Core i5-8200y, and the 1.1GHZ Core m3-8100y. The Whiskey Lake cores will in­te­grate In­tel’s HD620 GPU, ex­ec­u­tives said.

Though In­tel may add fur­ther pro­ces­sor SKUS at a later date, there doesn’t ap­pear to be much va­ri­ety in In­tel’s ini­tial Whiskey Lake lineup. If a hard­ware maker wants to de­sign a lap­top around a Core i5 U-se­ries chip, for in­stance, it has just one to choose from. (In­tel didn’t re­lease pric­ing, as only notebook mak­ers buy these chips.)

Don’t ex­pect In­tel’s mar­ket­ing to push gen­er­a­tion-over-gen­er­a­tion com­par­isons, how­ever. In­stead, there’s a fa­mil­iar re­frain: In­tel wants you to com­pare the per­for­mance of Whiskey Lake to five-year-old Pcs—in other

words, the PC you might cur­rently be us­ing, which In­tel hopes you’ll con­sider re­plac­ing.

For ex­am­ple, given the task of creat­ing a 4K video, In­tel says Whiskey Lake is up to 6.5 times faster than a five-year-old PC; edit­ing in Adobe Light­room can be per­formed up to

2.9 times faster, and “back up and up­load” of con­tent can be per­formed 12 times faster than a five-year-old 802.11n mo­dem, tak­ing ad­van­tage of the gi­ga­bit Wi-fi ca­pa­bil­ity.

Game­play will be twice as fast, In­tel says, us­ing the same met­ric. In­tel also be­lieves that bat­tery life on Whiskey Lake plat­forms can be up to 19 hours, though that as­sumes the pres­ence of a new, 1-watt dis­play ( go.pc­world.com/1wpn) panel that will be rolling out this fall.

DOES AMD HAVE AN OPEN­ING?

In­tel’s man­u­fac­tur­ing monotony is start­ing to arouse at­ten­tion on Wall Street. In­tel is strug­gling to move from 14nm to 10nm with its Can­non Lake ar­chi­tec­ture. Mean­while, sup­posed un­der­dog AMD has been shout­ing its roadmap ( go. pc­world.com/cnlk) from the rooftops since Jan­uary, in­clud­ing a planned shift to 7nm in 2019 (Re­cently, AMD an­nounced its was shift­ing its lead­ing-edge man­u­fac­tur­ing [ go.pc­world.com/jman] over to TSMC.).

It’s hard to see how much longer In­tel can sus­tain a po­si­tion of near-in­er­tia. “Their process tech­nol­ogy dis­ad­van­tage, which I think is bro­ken, will take five, six, seven years [to fix],” Rosen­blatt Se­cu­ri­ties’ Hans Mos­es­mann, who has cov­ered In­tel since the late 1990s, told CNBC re­cently ( go.pc­world. com/itfx). “I don’t think that [In­tel’s] busi­ness model works by them be­ing be­hind by a year or two in terms of process tech­nol­ogy.”

Nev­er­the­less, Chris Walker, the vice pres­i­dent who runs the Mo­bil­ity Client Plat­form for In­tel’s Client Com­put­ing Group, said that In­tel has eked out 70-per­cent per­for­mance gains across the whole of its 14nm gen­er­a­tion.

Walker re­turned, though, to the type of per­for­mance users will see via the com­pany’s gi­ga­bit Wi-fi. “That’s the kind of thing peo­ple are go­ing to feel on an old com­puter,” he said of the wire­less per­for­mance dif­fer­ences be­tween the old and new plat­forms.

In­tel’s gi­ga­bit Wi-fi, also known as In­tel

Wire­less-ac 160MHZ, will be matched with a few sys­tems that in­clude LTE con­nec­tiv­ity at launch, with more due later this year, ac­cord­ing to Karin Regis, di­rec­tor of notebook plat­form mar­ket­ing with In­tel’s CCG. Mean­while, more and more ISVS are at least of­fer­ing gi­ga­bit ser­vices to the home, and sev­eral con­sumer routers from com­pa­nies like Net­gear are sup­port­ing gi­ga­bit Wi-fi, for prices un­der $200, she said.

Regis didn’t say too much about the specifics of the Whiskey Lake-u plat­form, though a chip di­a­gram that In­tel pub­lished shows some de­tails: Thun­der­bolt 3 will be in­cluded, as well as sup­port for DDR4/ LPDDR3, em­bed­ded Dis­playport, and more. The plat­form will also sup­port In­tel’s Op­tane Mem­ory.

In­tel also added a new quad-core au­dio DSP, de­signed to be used in con­junc­tion with far-field mics on lap­tops. Though Win­dows 10 has in­cluded the Cor­tana dig­i­tal as­sis­tant since its in­cep­tion, Ama­zon and Mi­crosoft have fi­nal­ized their part­ner­ship to put Alexa on to Win­dows PCS ( go.pc­world. com/axpc), as well.

All of these plat­form im­prove­ments will go hand-in-hand with the mod­est per­for­mance gains, and the more pro­found im­prove­ments in bat­tery life that the new, 1W panel tech­nol­ogy will achieve.

One ques­tion stands out: In­tel didn’t say much about Am­ber Lake, but low-power, fan­less tablets have strug­gled to meet per­for­mance ex­pec­ta­tions. Whiskey Lake doesn’t ap­pear to of­fer much in the way of ex­cite­ment, but could Am­ber Lake stand out as a low-power, fan­less al­ter­na­tive to note­books? We’ll have to wait to find out.

In­tel is of­fer­ing six new chips, three each in the U-se­ries (Whiskey Lake) and Y-se­ries (Am­ber Lake) fam­i­lies.

In an­other year, the com­par­isons to the “5-year-old PC” will be to In­tel’s first 14nm parts.

Some of the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the In­tel Whiskey Lake plat­form in­clude Thun­der­bolt 3 and DDR4 mem­ory.

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