Intel provides a first look at its Tiger Lake chips, Xe graphics

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intel presents at Computex 2019 along with AMD and others

There are plenty of exciting things coming around the bend for Intel. The chipmaker gave consumers a first glimpse at its Tiger Lake processors and a detailed look at its Xe graphics at its Architecture Day 2020 event.

The two products are important for Intel. It has increasingly been forced to fend off competition from rivals like AMD. While the latter’s 7nm Ryzen 4000 chips outpace Intel’s 10nm Ice Lake processors from a manufacturing standpoint, the Tiger Lake lineup should be successful.

Meanwhile, Intel’s Xe graphics will be a welcome arrival for gamers who will be able to play most titles without needing a discrete graphics card.

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Welcome to 11th Gen

It feels like Intel’s 10th Gen Ice Lake chips just arrived. However, the cycle of the semiconductor industry is relentless. Tiger Lake processors are quickly coming around the corner and are expected to arrive with Intel’s 11th Gen branding.

Intel’s Tiger Lake chips are built on a new “SuperFin” transistor. The firm promises it will deliver a generational performance increase despite the fact that Intel isn’t yet shifting to a 7nm process.

Intel says that the new 10nm SuperFin design gives its Tiger Lake chips better frequency speeds while simultaneously drawing less power. In other words, the chips will offer big performance upgrades while using the same voltage as today’s 10th Gen silicon. Or, they will deliver the same range of performance while drawing less power.

Tiger Lake will also support a variety of new I/O standards. Thunderbolt 4, USB4, DDR5 RAM at up to 5400MHz, and PCIe Gen 4.0 are all supported out of the box.

As for security, Tiger Lake will feature a new protection called Control-low Enforcement Technology (CET). This helps protect the CPU against several types of malware.

Even though Tiger Lake hasn’t even arrived, Intel also teased its successor. In 2021, the chipmaker will launch Alder Lake, a chip that uses a hybrid approach to bring together two types of processing cores. In other words, consumers should expect another noteworthy speed boost in 2021.

Mix and Match

The business of creating semiconductors primarily revolves around transistors. However, creative engineering in other areas can create advantageous features and better performance. Intel has improved the metal data pathways above the transistors of its Tiger Lake chips. It credits those improvements for some of the new processors’ speed boost.

The chipmaker also discussed its chip packaging. For those who aren’t familiar, chip packaging is a rapidly emerging, competitive technology that lets manufacturers link multiple chips together. High-speed data connections let them act as a single unit.

Intel’s Lakefield chip prominently features the technology. It allows the firm to include memory, data input-output, processing, and other functions in a single package. As chip packaging technology improves, Intel will integrate it into its other processors.

“We’re leveraging every single thing we’ve invented to build our products,” says Brijesh Tripathi of Intel’s PC group.

Another advantage of chip packaging is that it allows manufacturers like Intel to rapidly design and create unique components for certain users. In other words, someone buying a laptop for gaming would get a slightly different chip than someone buying it for creating video content.

The Intel graphic below does a nice job summarizing this idea.

Image: Intel

Graphics Boost from Xe

Perhaps the most exciting part about Intel’s Tiger Lake lineup is the arrival of better graphics courtesy of the chipmaker’s Xe design. Intel is no stranger to integrating basic graphics abilities into its chips. However, today’s hobbies and careers demand more performance.

This has forced consumers to buy separate graphics cards from makers like Nvidia and AMD.

In next-gen PCs, Intel’s Tiger Lake chips will pack a much more significant graphics punch thanks to Xe. Intel plans to offer several tiers of its Xe graphics. Tiger Lake processors will feature Xe-LP integrated graphics by default.

For gamers, the improvements will be noticeable. Triple-A titles like “Battlefield V,” “PUBG,” and “Grid” will run smoothly at 1080p with Xe-LP integrated graphics.

For digital creators, Xe supports up to 8K UHD with HDR10 resolution and Dolby vision panels. It also enables refresh rates up to 360Hz and doubles the performance for encoding video.

Those upgrades are not only impressive—they are generation-defining. Intel’s debut of Xe graphics will bolster the reputation of Tiger Lake and draw in plenty of consumers.

Meanwhile, Intel will offer Xe graphics options for those who need more power, one for AI and data center applications, and an “HPC Exascale” variant. This could be a preview of Intel’s intentions to step into the discrete GPU world in or around 2021.

Battling Competition

Intel enjoyed many fruitful years at the top of the semiconductor industry. However, it is facing challenges in every direction thanks to breakthroughs by firms like AMD and Arm.

As mentioned, AMD’s flagship processors are able to go toe-to-toe with Intel’s chips. In some cases, they even perform better. That’s a big change. For many years, AMD’s chips were seen as second-rate budget options for those looking to construct their own PC without breaking the bank.

Given that AMD has already adopted the 7nm architecture, Intel finds itself with some catching up to do. While its Tiger Lake chips won’t help in that regard, they should keep things competitive.

Meanwhile, Intel is facing another major challenge due to the fact that Apple is no longer using its chips in Mac computers. Instead, it is using custom Arm-based processors.

Arm isn’t as well known as Intel, but it is already starting to chip away (no pun intended) at the industry giant’s lead in the computing space. Major manufacturers like Microsoft, Samsung, and Apple are all offering Arm computers alongside their Intel devices.

Ultimately, this is a good thing. It will force Intel to continually innovate so it can keep up with the market. For consumers, there will be better and faster chips to choose from in the coming years—regardless of which company is making them.

Intel’s forthcoming Tiger Lake chips with integrated Xe graphics will certainly be enticing. Expect a full reveal on September 2.

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