Intel Lakefield processor is brought to challenge ARM

Details of the new Intel Lakefield processors are out

After their failure with Atom SoC that was launched with the ASUS ZenFone 2, Intel had dropped plans to produce SoCs. This was mainly because of their technology being inferior to the smartphone SoC giants like Snapdragon or Apple Bionic series. However, the company has carried out its pursuits in low voltage chips designed to power 2-in-1 devices, laptops, foldable devices, etc, while completely keeping away from smartphone industry. But, Intel’s Core M, later came to be known as the Core Y series, which is still being used in laptops such as the Apple MacBook Air.

Now, Intel has disclosed more details about its upcoming “Lakefield” chip, which is not an Atom chip nor a pure Core based chip (although they will be branded as part of the “Intel Core” lineup). They can be viewed as the successor of the Core M/Core Y-series philosophy, and are designed to harden Intel’s leadership position against ARM in the ultra-mobile device space.

Intel Lakefield Processor
Intel’s mobile client platform, code-named “Lakefield,” introduces the industry’s first product with 3D stacking and hybrid computing architecture. Leveraging Intel’s latest 10nm process and Foveros advanced packaging technology, Lakefield offers OEMs more flexibility for thin-and-light form factor PCs. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Focus of Intel Lakefield Processor

Intel Lakefield Processor is its first chips to merge its Core i3 and i5 hardware together with low-power “Tremont” Atom cores. Officially, they’re called “Intel Core processors with hybrid technology.” The company is positioning Lakefield as the ideal hardware for incredibly thin laptops and foldable.

It is of no doubt that the 10 nanometer based core i3 and i5 hardware will handle ponderous workloads, while this less challenging tasks move over to the Atom cores, similar to the arrangement Qualcomm uses. And unlike the Snapdragon 8cx laptop chipset, which is limited to ARM compatible apps, Lakefield processors will also run all 32-bit and 64-bit Windows software.

Intel is able to combine multiple chip architectures and onboard memory onto a single processor thanks to its Foveros 3D packaging technology. That allows the company to stack multiple logic and memory dies on top of each other, instead of spreading them out on a flat 2D plane like traditional processors. The basic takeaway is that Intel Lakefield processors also won’t need to take up much physical space, making them ideal for very thin devices.

There will be two Intel Lakefield processors available at first in the form of the Core i5-L16G7 and the Core i3-L13G4. The differences between the two can be seen in the table below. 

Processor NumberGraphicsCores / ThreadsGraphics (EUs)CacheTDPBase Freq (GHz)Max Single Core Turbo (GHz)Max All Core Turbo (GHz)Graphics Max Freq (GHz)Memory
i5-L16G7Intel UHD Graphics5/5644MB7W1.43.01.8Up to 0.5LPDDR4X-4267
i3-L13G4Intel UHD Graphics5/5484MB7W0.82.81.3Up to 0.5LPDDR4X-4267

The i5 Intel Lakefield Processor has more graphics Execution Units (EUs): 64 vs. 48. The grahics maximum frequency is capped at up to 0.5GHz which is comparatively much less than Amber Lake’s 1.05GHz, which again proposes that Intel is taking a broad but measured way to enhance their performance while keeping power requirements in check at the same time. Both of them have the same TDP at 7W. The base frequency of i5 is 1.4GHz, while the i3 has barely of 0.8GHz base frequency.

The max single core turbo frequency (applicable only for the Sunny Cove core) is 3.0GHz and 2.8GHz for the i5 and the i3 respectively, while the max all core turbo frequency is 1.8GHz and 1.3GHz respectively. Presumably, Intel Lakefield Processor is relying on Sunny Cove’s increased IPC over Skylake to offset these low clock speeds. Keep in mind there is only one “big” core (in comparative) terms, so don’t expect these ultra-mobile chips to compete with regular U series chips found in the Ice Lake, Comet Lake, and Tiger Lake platforms. The memory support is LPDDR4X-4267, which is incidentally higher than Ice Lake.

Gregory Bryant, Intel senior vice president in the Client Computing Group, displays a “Lakefield” reference board during Intel Corporation’s news event at CES 2019 on Jan. 7, 2019, in Las Vegas. Lakefield features a hybrid CPU architecture with Intel’s Foveros 3D packaging technology. Intel displays how its technology is the foundation for the world’s most important innovations and advances at CES 2019 from Jan. 8-11 in Las Vegas. (Credit: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation)

AnandTech was able to provide more detail on the Intel Lakefield Processor. Supposedly, Intel told the publication that the Intel Lakefield Processor will use the Tremont cores for almost everything, and only call on the Sunny Cove core for user-experience type of interactions, such as typing or interacting with the screen.

Overall, the Lakefield platform seems to be very promising. The biggest flaw of Intel’s low-power chips has been that up until now, they have been priced too expensive. It doesn’t seem that this will be changing with Lakefield, but at least consumers will get to expect new types of PCs such as the aforementioned first three devices powered by Lakefield. At least for now, Intel remains dominant in PC because of the overwhelming advantage of app support, and announcements such as Lakefield mean that ARM and Qualcomm will need to keep iterating to overcome Intel’s intrinsic instruction set advantage.

Amal Varghese

A lecturer by profession and an admirer of transitions. I love the way the technological world revolves around me from the introduction of an earpiece to the computing device in a space shuttle, every tiny detail amuses me. I try to put my fascination to words for all the fanatics of this evolution who are ironically hooked to its benefits anyway. Proud to be a part of this generation who saw a tape-recording cassette with 5 songs and a cloud streaming service with a zillion songs inside your pocket.

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