Intel Launches 11th Gen Core Tiger Lake: Up to 4.8 GHz at 50 W, 2x GPU with Xe, New Branding

In August, Intel ran one of its rare Architecture Days where the company went into some detail about its upcoming Tiger Lake processor. This included target markets, core counts, graphics counts, a look into some of the new acceleration features, and a promise of a product launch later in the year. That product launch is now here, and Intel is providing Tiger Lake with speeds and feeds, providing detail and expected benchmark performance for Intel’s next generation of notebook-class devices.

What We Already Know

Recapping what we learned at Intel’s Architecture Day 2020, the standard form of Tiger Lake is a quad core processor with an updated graphics architecture built on Intel’s latest manufacturing process.

These new 11th Generation Core processors use four of Intel’s latest cores built with the Willow Cove microarchitecture – a slightly modified version of the Sunny Cove microarchitecture found in Intel’s 10th Generation Ice Lake processors. These new cores offer more performance than before, peaking at 4.8 GHz compared to the 4.0 GHz seen in the previous generation, a 20% improvement. However the underlying clock-for-clock performance improvements are minimal, with Intel instead focusing on that frequency gain.

The reason for the frequency gain comes from the manufacturing process – formerly Intel’s 10++ process, renamed once to 10+ and then again during Architecture Day to its new name: Intel’s 10nm SuperFin technology. The goal with this manufacturing process was two-fold: firstly to increase efficiency and scalability to enable higher frequencies, but also to improve yields. As a result, we will see Intel claiming higher frequencies, that lead to higher performance, at similar power levels to the previous generation. These cores support AVX-512, as well as Intel’s DL-Boost acceleration libraries.

On the graphics side, Tiger Lake uses Intel’s new Xe-LP graphics architecture, which the company also detailed at Architecture Day – we have a separate article explaining the differences. Simply put, Xe-LP increases the raw thread count and compute count per execution unit (EU), as well as the cache hierarchy and some acceleration features. For Ice Lake we saw 64 EUs running at 1100 MHz, whereas for Tiger Lake we will see 96 EUs (+50%) running at 1350 MHz (+22%). Add in some of the other benefits and we should supposedly see a 2x improvement in graphics performance compared to the previous generation on paper. For AI compute, the graphics also supports DP4A instructions for INT8 inference workloads.

The graphics display pipeline has been improved, with support for AV1 decode, as well as display pipes for up to four 4K60 displays or a single 8K60 display. There is a direct display port to memory to improve latency – memory support on Tiger Lake includes LPDDR4X-4267 (up to 32 GB), DDR4-3200 (up to 64 GB), and when available, we will see LPDDR5-5400 devices in 2021. For accelerators, Intel has also boosted its Gaussian Neural Accelerator to version 2.0, to help with offloading simpler AI inference workloads such as noise cancellation.

Other improvements to Tiger Lake include native Thunderbolt 4 support, with the controller embedded into the CPU allowing for up to four TB4 ports per device. Wi-Fi 6 support is also enabled through a CNVi interface. Intel’s power/frequency algorithms are also updated, allowing for separate scaled power and clocks on the CPU, GPU, and memory fabric. Intel stated that it has doubled the internal fabric bandwidth allowing all these parts to communicate with each other with more data.

Speeds, Performance, New Style

The difference between the previous Architecture Day and today’s Tiger Lake launch is that today is more about the end-user performance: the speeds and benchmark numbers that end users are going use to compare it against other products in the market. Not only this, but Intel’s partners are now free to start announcing future Tiger Lake based products.

The details we should start with right away are the processors. Intel has two categories of Tiger Lake parts, ranging from 7 W up to 28 W. First up is the UP3 parts.

Intel 11th Gen Core Tiger Lake
UP3 Class: 12-28 W
AnandTech Cores L3
MB
Base
MHz
1C
MHz
nT
MHz
Xe
EUs
Xe
MHz
DDR4 LP4x
i7-1185G7 4C / 8T 12 3000 4800 4300 96 1350 3200 4266
i7-1165G7 4C / 8T 12 2800 4700 4100 96 1300 3200 4266
i5-1135G7 4C / 8T 8 2400 4200 3800 80 1300 3200 4266
i3-1125G4 4C / 8T 8 2000 3700 3300 48 1250 3200 3733
i3-1115G4 2C / 4T 6 3000 4100 4100 48 1250 3200 3733

The top 12-25 W processors are technically known as ‘UP3’ processors, or what we used to call the U-series hardware. These processors have a nominal TDP of 15 W, but can be pushed up or down in power by laptop companies depending on how they build their systems. At the top end is Intel’s Core i7-1165G7, a quad core processor with hyperthreading and the full 12 MB of L3 cache. It has a base frequency of 3.0 GHz, a single-core turbo frequency of 4.8 GHz, and an all-core turbo frequency of 4.3 GHz. For graphics, it has the full 96 EUs available, running at the peak 1350 MHz frequency. Memory support is listed as LPDDR4X-4266 and DDR4-3200.

Intel splits its processors by core count, graphics, and frequencies. Anything listed ‘G7’ is meant to signify the highest class of graphics, although it is worth noting that this means 96 EUs for Core i7 parts but only 80 EUs for Core i5 (which also has less L3 cache). Below this is G4 graphics, with only 48 execution units enabled. Only the top Core i7-1165G7 gets the highest graphics frequency, too. The Core i3 processors have a reduction in memory support, and that bottom Core i3-1115G4 only has two cores.

Intel 11th Gen Core Tiger Lake
UP4 Class: 7-15 W
AnandTech Cores L3
MB
Base
MHz
1C
MHz
nT
MHz
Xe
EUs
Xe
MHz
DDR4 LP4x
i7-1160G7 4C / 8T 12 1200 4400 3600 96 1100 4266
i5-1130G7 4C / 8T 8 1100 4000 3400 80 1100 4266
i3-1120G4 4C / 8T 8 1100 3500 3000 48 1100 4266
i3-1110G4 2C / 4T 6 1800 3900 3900 48 1100 4266

The 7-15 W processors are the former ‘Y-series’ processors, now known as UP4.

At the top is the Core i7-1160G7, with all four cores enabled with hyperthreading and 12 MB of L3 cache. This processor has a 1.2 GHz base clock, a 4.4 GHz single core turbo, and a 3.6 GHz all-core turbo. The 96 execution units run at 1.1 GHz, and only LPDDR4X memory is supported, up to 4266 MT/s.

There is only a single Core i7 in this rage, with the Core i5 part having fewer EUs and lower frequencies, before the Core i3 parts get split into quad-core and dual core with only 48 EUs a piece.

These processors fit into the UP4 power envelope mostly due to the base frequency being so low, a trait of Intel’s low-power processors over the years.

The goal of these parts is to spread from Fanless designs around 9 W with the UP4, and then up to 28 W perhaps with a discrete GPU at 28 W. As with the previous generation of notebooks on Intel’s 10th Generation, we expect to see some Tiger Lake designs that take the highest performing processors and enable higher power modes, in that 25-28W range. This will enable these products to offer better sustained performance after the turbo period has ended, such as for rendering and video encoding.

Intel’s turbo boost technology has come under a lot of scrutiny of late, primarily for seeing some impressively high power numbers within that turbo period. Intel states that the Turbo mechanisms are there to take advantage of improvements in system design until the system has other factors that take priority, such as thermals and or power. This time around, Intel explains that Tiger Lake has better turbo algorithms, allowing for the system to turbo CPU/GPU/fabric as required within the turbo window. The whole system is a feedback loop which takes in inputs such as the workload, on-system sensors, power limits, and a balancer to find the right frequencies.

So while Intel’s ‘TDP’ value, also known as Power Limit 1, is anywhere from 7 W to 28 W depending on the system it is installed to, the power level when in turbo modes can be a lot higher. We’ve seen this secondary power level, PL2, increase over the years to +4 W over TDP to +20 W over TDP. In the previous generation of Ice Lake, we saw 15 W processors peaking at 44 W in turbo mode. Intel even provides a handy diagram:

What does this mean for Tiger Lake? Based on Intel’s own numbers, peak turbo power is around 50 W, either when plugged in or off the power. Intel is keen to point out that it manages its turbo algorithms to ensure a consistent experience for its customers whether the system has access to wall-power, or is relying on the battery.

Unlike the last generation, where we were able to test Intel’s own mobile development platforms ahead of a launch, we’re unsure exactly what Tiger Lake product will be the first in our labs for testing. It will be interesting to see what we are sent, and how that system performs by comparison.

Over the page, read about Intel’s new branding, Intel Evo, Tiger Lake performance, and the future announcements from Intel.

Since the introduction of Ice Lake, Intel’s logo design has seemed a bit off-kilter. The company changed how it named its processors, ditching the U and Y designations, instead of focusing on the ‘G7 and G4’ elements as well as the graphics. While those were Intel’s 10th Generation Core processors, they were categorized in a seemingly different way. Now a year later, changes are once again afoot. With the introduction of Xe graphics into the mix with Tiger Lake, the company is putting new logos and branding into the mix.

The new stickers on the laptops will look something like this. Intel has decided that its logos need to have a mix of lower case letters and capital letters for Core and Iris, despite the Intel part being in complete lower case and the ‘Graphics’ or ‘Powered By’ are all capitalized (at least it isn’t with backwards letters?). The Xe has that e in superscript as well, for the ‘eXascale for Everyone’ element of the graphics portfolio.

There is also Intel Evo, the new name for Intel’s Project Athena program, which we talk about later.

Beyond this is a full change for the Intel logo. It was stated that Intel only ever changes its logo when there is a big shift inside the industry. Today is apparently that shift, despite Intel’s presentation being fairly minimal – I would have expected a logo change to occur during a large event or such. Intel says this is the third time it has fundamentally changed its logo.

With the launch of the previous generation of products, Intel introduced its Project Athena verification program. Similar to how it tried to push for ultraportable notebooks back in the day, Project Athena was a set of specifications that Intel believed were important to the premium notebook owners in the current day. This included things like minimum battery life requirements, support for Thunderbolt and Wi-Fi 6, a good display, support for AI, and a specific level of responsiveness.

In order for a laptop to be designated as a Project Athena design, it had to be validated by Intel. More often than not, Athena notebooks were co-developed with Intel anyway, making validation not much more than a formality. At the time Intel stated that Project Athena was more of an OEM standard to help push the industry along the leading edge – version 1.0 of the specification was ultimately a stepping stone to more stringent updates to the standard we learned.

Because Athena was a program designed for the OEMs rather than the customer, Intel had not necessarily worked out the marketing side of the equation. At a simple level, it was expected that these devices would, if they followed the specification, speak for themselves in offering better-than-normal user experiences equipped with the latest technology. However, at some point, we expected Athena to become end-user visible as well.

So for this Tiger Lake launch, Athena is now getting that splash of marketing, and Intel is calling any device that qualifies under the latest updates as ‘Intel Evo’. The Evo part of the name is clearly meant to be a calling to the evolution of the future generation of products.

What surprises me a bit is that the first generation of Athena was meant to be, at least on some level, CPU vendor agnostic – some of the special sauce from Intel made it easier for Intel devices to meet the specification, such as built in Thunderbolt and CNVi-based Wi-Fi 6 reduces the power consumption. With Intel Evo branding, any semblance of it being an industry-wide specification to work towards now goes out the window. While any Evo qualification is still a good thing to have, with the promise of a good user experience and the latest technology, there’s no escaping the fact that this program is now honed in for Intel-specific systems.

As usual, posting performance numbers isn’t really our thing – we prefer to get the hardware on hand and test for ourselves. Intel has a habit of not stating full system configurations during its presentations, and rather directing the press to look at a section on a website after the fact. To that end, we’re not going to republish reams of Intel’s own numbers here. The high level numbers that are perhaps with promoting are as follows.

When comparing an Intel Core i7-1165G7 Tiger Lake system to an AMD Ryzen 7 4800U system (both configurations unknown at this point), Intel states it has the following performance advantages:

  • +28% Compute (SYSmark 25)
  • +67% Graphics (3DMark Fire Strike)
  • +300% AI (MLPerf)

As always, Intel’s need to promote ‘performance using real world benchmarks’ rubs up against the fact that it also posts these sorts of synthetic tests as well – especially when system configurations are no longer provided directly where the numbers are in the presentation. Intel does have ‘real world benchmarks’, directly in the next slide, but for slide #4 in a day of announcements, offering synthetics – especially ones that are known to favor Intel – is a bit frustrating. Surely an aggregate number of those real-world tests would be a better starting point for any presentation.

We will be doing our own testing when we get a Tiger Lake system in for testing.

Coming Next: Devices and Future Intel Announcements

Now that Intel’s Tiger Lake mobile processors are announced, OEM partners will also be announcing notebooks and laptops in the upcoming weeks – in fact a few will do so today. The other half of Tiger Lake still needs to be disclosed – at Architecture Day we were told that Tiger Lake scales to 65 watts, so most of us has assumed that this means a 45W to 65W range of processors, up to 8 cores, is coming. No word on that from Intel as of yet.

As a final slide from Intel’s deck, the company has clarified what to expect from its next few announcements (which we assume is from now through to the end of the year, at least from the client side of the business).

We should expect to see Intel Pentium and Celeron notebook processors later this year, along with the vPro versions of the Tiger Lake processors announced today. Perhaps more exciting is the DG1 discrete graphics platform, which is also promising to show its head. Given the recent high-end graphics announcements, it’s going to be fun playing with something more mid-range.