The Las Vegas Grand Salon was an opportunity for Intel to unveil Ice Lake, a new major 10-nm architecture that will arrive in our computers in 2019.
Intel organized a conference at CES 2019 to present its new great architecture, Ice Lake. It will be used for processors that Intel promises to market before the end of the year. The biggest novelty is above all the use of the new manufacturing process in 10 nm, with which Intel has had a lot of difficulties in recent years. If this process is not technically comparable to the 7 – 10nm used by Samsung (Qualcomm) or TSMC (Apple, Huawei), this put Intel as a late brand in terms of image.
Intel put in turn on "AI"
Since the launch of Skylake in 2015, Intel has not fundamentally reviewed the micro-architecture of its processors. The firm remains for the moment rather discreet on the precise modifications which it has brought, but promises in particular to optimize its processors for tasks related to the artificial intelligence. As for the new chips of our smartphones, it is about optimizing the performance on the tasks of the type "to index the photos of my cat" by using image recognition and machine learning.
Ice Lake is also expected to make a leap in terms of clock frequency, and in terms of executions of instructions per cycle. Translation: the processor will be more efficient, without developers need to review the code of their applications.
Intel HD Graphics 11: finally an Intel processor gifted in game?
Until now, graphics chips embedded in Intel processors were enough to run Windows and decode video in a hardware way, but performance was falling in 3D games. So a machine with an Intel graphics chip is generally not considered a gaming machine, unlike solutions equipped with Nvidia or AMD.
A demonstration of Tekken 7 running with Intel Gen11. Credit: Anandtech.
With Gen 11, which succeeds Gen 9 integrated with Skylake (the Gen 10 has been discontinued under development), Intel finally seems to take the graphics performance of its processors seriously. The chip incorporates twice as many threads, and promises to exceed the performance teraflops (for comparison a PlayStation 4 delivers 1.84 teraflops). Intel had demonstrated in December the latest Tekken 7, running in Full HD with the graphic details set to average.
New features include support for H.265 HEVC videos, HDR, and Adaptive Sync screens (AMD Freesync).
Thunderbolt 3 and Wi-Fi 6 built-in basic
Nowadays, a processor is at the heart of a SoC (System on a Chip) that takes care of many other things than performing the instructions and calculations needed to run the device. It is the SoC that determines in particular the connectivity of the machine, whether it is Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or the different USB ports, or not.
With Ice Lake, Intel brings very interesting new features. On the one hand the Thunderbolt 3 is now integrated into the chip, which means that manufacturers will not have to add an additional controller and can easily use what is still the best connection to date on their machines. Wi-Fi 6 is also in the game, this is the next generation of Wi-Fi should be in 2019 if we believe the many announcements of CES.
Small footprint and increased autonomy
To face the Snapdragon 8CX Qualcomm, which now promises performance worthy of a high-end ultraportable, Intel must look for its competitor in the field of consumption and congestion. Qualcomm has indeed for him a reduced consumption, but especially a much simpler integration for the manufacturers thanks to the development of motherboard more compact.
By optimizing each point of consumption of a modern machine, Intel promises that it will be possible to achieve more than 25 hours of autonomy on a laptop. The footprint of the motherboard has been reduced, which allows Intel to leave an additional 10% volume for the batteries. An ultraportable 12 inches could thus integrate a battery of 58 Wh instead of a battery of 52 Wh.
The new Ice Lake architecture promises to bring something new to a PC market that was stagnating due to Intel's difficulties. Now faced with the arrival of Qualcomm and the return of AMD in force, the firm has no choice but to work hard.
The presentation of Ice Lake was full of promises: performance and autonomy on the rise, connectivity using the best standards, but it will be necessary to wait to see if Intel will manage to market in time its new product.