CES 2021 has been rife with exciting announcements, and Intel has certainly been among the companies that have made headlines. This week, the company introduced four new processor families, amounting to more than 50 processors total.
The company seemingly left no customer unattended to; of the four families, one is dedicated to education, one to gaming, one to business, and one to desktop/mobile platforms.
Intel Vice President Gregory Bryant at CES 2021. Image used courtesy of Intel
While much of the technical information about these new families are still under wraps, Intel has revealed a few promising specs about the four families.
A Family for Business: 11th Gen Intel Core vPro
Intel’s newest family of processors marketed for business is its 11th Generation Core vPro. The family builds on improvements to Intel’s 10nm SuperFin technology. In general, security and connectivity were two primary focuses as Intel designed the business-centric processors.
From a hardware security perspective, the new family integrates Intel’s “Hardware Shield.” According to the company, this includes the industry’s first silicon-based AI threat detection, meant to prevent malicious attacks such as ransomware.
From a connectivity perspective, Intel claims that the family offers “the world’s biggest Wi-Fi improvement in 20 years.” The devices are said to enable Wi-Fi 6/6E, which may speed uploads up to six times faster than Wi-Fi 5.
A Family for Education: N-Series Pentium Silver and Celeron
With the goal of creating a processor for the education market, Intel announced a new N-series of both their Pentium Silver and Celeron processors.
Intel says its new processors are breathing life to over 500 new PC designs. Image used courtesy of Intel
Also built on Intel’s 10nm architecture, the company claims up to 35% better overall application performance and up to 78% better graphics performance compared to the previous generation processors. For the Pentium Silver N6000, Intel has reported a TDP of 6 W, a peak power draw of 15 W 4C4T (four cores four threads), and turbo clock speeds up to 3.3 GHz.
This won’t necessarily impress any gamers, for example, but the processors may suit an education market that increasingly relies on at-home learning.
A Family for Gaming: 11th Gen Core H-Series
For gaming, Intel announced its new 11th Gen Core H-series. The flagship of the family is its i7 Special Edition 4-core processor. This chip offers up to 5 GHz Turbo and a new Gen 4 PCIE architecture meant for delivering low-latency gameplay on the go.
Intel hopes the 11th Gen Intel Core H-35 mobile processors will open doors for more portable gaming. Image used courtesy of Intel
At CES alone, companies including Acer and ASUS, announced new gaming systems that will be powered by this new family of processors with over 40 designs coming to market in the first half of 2021.
A Family for Desktops: “Rocket Lake” and “Alder Lake”
One of the big questions everyone was looking forward to getting answered at CES was how Intel would respond to Apple’s new M1 chip. The company’s response came as anticipated—in the form of Alder Lake: a new processor family that may represent a significant breakthrough in x86 architecture.
Not much is known technically about this processor family, but Intel claims that it is the company’s most power-scalable system-on-chip. Interestingly, the processor introduces an asymmetrical architecture and is a “hybrid system.”
11th Gen Intel Core desktop processors are set for release in Q1 of 2021. Image used courtesy of Intel
Essentially this means that not all of the processor cores are the same, with some aimed at better power efficiency while others are meant to have better performance. In this way, Intel is trying to create a scalable platform that provides a blend of efficiency and performance.
Along with this release came the release of a new family of Rocket Lake processors, headlined by the Intel Core i9-11900.
From an EE’s Perspective
From an electrical engineering perspective, there are a few notable features from the four new processor families.
For starters, none of the new processors have passed the 10nm process, and it seems 10nm continues to be a significant challenge for Intel to overcome. Analysts comparing Apple’s M1 to Intel’s new Alder Lake processors have pointed out the clear disparity in technology nodes: Apple is at 5nm while Intel is still stuck at 10nm.
While Intel has experienced delays to scale down, the company explains that it has made improvements elsewhere—namely on its SuperFin technology, which has been the source of the processors’ continual advances.
Should SuperFin reliably compete with competitors at 10nm, it will be worthwhile to keep an eye on it as it does scale down to 7nm or even 5nm.