Intel is taking a more subdued approach to CES these days — forgoing a splashy event staged in a big hotel showroom in the wake of Covid-19, and a wider change in PR strategy after years of making bullish investments in next-generation tech like drones and moonshots like Volocopter and using them as showpieces at those events. Remember the year when Intel imported a whole Volocopter aircraft on to the stage, and placed its then-CEO into it, for its “first US flight”?
Yet the Vegas mega-show remains a key moment for Intel. It’s not just a bellwether for the state of the consumer electronics industry, but it’s an important marketing opportunity as a swathe of consumer electronics companies size up and buy in components for their devices. Today, the company unveiled a host of news related to processors and computer specifications using them, including a new 13th generation of its Intel Core processor, an all-new 24-core processor, the i9, and — addressing the fact that there is over-penetration of computers among business and developed world users — a new N-series specifically for what it describes as “entry-level” education and mainstream laptops, desktops and edge-native applications.
The breadth here is intentional: Intel made its name decades ago for its revolutionary approach to computer processors, which helped usher in a new generation of smaller devices, but it has arguably met some very stiff competition at the higher end of the market, and some would say missed the boat on mobile years ago. These new releases aim to address all of this: providing leadership in the bigger processing race of tomorrow but also hoping for a role in the making of devices for the mass market of today, not least after announcing in September 2022 that it would sunset its iconic Celeron and Pentium processor brands.
“The 13th Gen Intel Core mobile processor family delivers unrivaled, scalable performance for leadership platforms across all laptop segments,” said Michelle Johnston Holthaus, executive vice president and general manager of the Client Computing Group at Intel, in a statement. “With our industry-leading technologies and unmatched global partner ecosystem, people can expect a high-caliber mobile experience in new and unique form factors so they can game or create from anywhere.”
The 13th generation Intel core mobile processor family being unveiled today is spearheaded by the i9-13980HX, which is Intel’s first 24-core processor designed for laptops. Intel claims it is now the world’s fastest mobile (that is, laptop) processor clocking up speeds of 5.6 gigahertz (GHz) turbo frequency and 11% faster and 49% faster performance respectively for single-purpose and multitasking usage. As a measure of what the race is like in processors today, this is less about Intel really setting a new bar as much as it is about keeping up: it notes in a disclaimer that it’s worlds-fastest claim is only valid as of December 2022.
The 24 cores are divided up into 8 Performance-cores and 16 Efficient-cores, it says, and also are complemented by 32 threads and “enhanced Intel Thread
Director” with memory support of up to 128 gigabytes total covering two classes of SDRAM, DDR5 (up to 5,600 megahertz) and DDR4 (up to 3,200 MHz). The state of features today expected by consumers in these devices is laid bare too with a wide range of other support including superfast Wi-Fi 6E (Gig+) support; Bluetooth LE Audio and Bluetooth 5.2 support for faster speeds, multiple devices and lower power consumption (so critical given earlier Bluetooth does drain battery); Thunderbolt 4 support for 40 gigabits per second transfer speeds; and more.
The H-, P- and U-series mobile processors are addressing IoT, “enthusiast” and thinner devices. Intel says that more than 300 models from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Razer, Republic of Gamers, Samsung and others are going to be released this year based on the them.
All of the processors in the 13th generation will also include a Movidius vision processing unit (VPU), built in collaboration with Microsoft to integrate closely with its Windows Studio Effects to handle processing of more AI-based tasks to speed up overall CPU and GPU performance of machines. That collaboration is a notable mark of how hardware and software have had to tie up closer to evolve, and how hardware is becoming increasingly a software play, for more complex applications and faster speeds. Without its own chip-based vertical strategy in-house, Microsoft is an obvious partner.
“Together with Intel we continue to innovate to deliver powerful PC performance and experiences with Windows 11 and all of the products Intel is announcing today,” said Panos Panay, EVP and product head for Microsoft, in a statement. “We’re excited for customers to benefit from substantial optimizations, like improved Windows support for Intel Hybrid Guided Scheduler, and meaningful new experiences, like with the Intel Movidius VPU unlocking a new era of AI acceleration, starting with Windows Studio.”
Intel is describing its new N-series chips, meanwhile, as a direct replacement for the Penium and Celeron lines. “Purpose-built” for the education segment, entry-level computing and IoT edge-native applications, this also means that they will be marketed as more cost-effective and aimed and overall lower-priced and lower-specced devices, while being more modern than the previous generations and being a more evolutionary product for the company.
With new Gracemont-based cores, Intel 7 process technology means 28% better application performance and 64% better graphics performance at the peak compared to the older (now sunset) processors; up to 10-hours of HD video playback (if nothing else is being used) with better camera and display support as well as upgraded WiFi and Bluetooth (they are based also on the i3 tech). Intel said that some 50 new ChromeOS and Windows designs from Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo and ASUS are due to be launched this year based on these chips.
IoT is also getting addressed with these new N-series chips, which will be appearing, Intel said, in devices used in retail signages, kiosks, point of sale systems, portable medical imaging devices, office automation equipment like copiers, and in safety and security devices.
In addition to the chip news, Intel has also continued iterating on its laptop and portable computing specifications, this year with new developments called Intel Evo.
These are based on the new 13th generation processor and focus on extended battery life to improve both the speed of charging but also how long devices can run unplugged; improved performance for videoconferencing and other video and collaboration applications; and better bridging between laptops and other keyboard computing and mobile handsets and tablets, which it’s terming “Intel Unison.” Again, in the endgame of vertical integration, this was an essential move for Intel, in an environment where those who do still use laptops are always doing it in complement with handsets, something that device makers are keen to make as easy as possible, not least to lose those users as customers of the former products.
Intel Evo will also work with hardware made by accessory providers, covering Thunderbolt 4 docks, monitors, storage and wireless headsets, mice, keyboards and other access points. Whether those will ultimately feel like gimmicks or buggy hardware that no one ultimately uses remains to be seen: at the end of the day, the easiest and most foolproof tools tend to win the day.