Intel held a launch event today for its next-generation laptop CPU family, codenamed Tiger Lake. There wasn’t much new information about Tiger Lake itself, though—if you followed our
of Intel Architecture Day last month, you already know most of the technical detail covered at today’s event.
Intel’s story on the raw performance of Tiger Lake today holds constant with both what the company announced at Architecture Day, and what the leaked i7-1185G7 benchmarks implied—significantly higher performance from the i7-1185G7 than from AMD’s Ryzen 7 4800U, in both CPU and GPU performance.
Taking direct aim at Renoir
We did see considerably more direct discussion of that competitive performance, however, with some pretty compelling side-by-side video of gaming, Adobe Premiere, and other tasks to back up Intel’s claims of market performance leadership with the upcoming parts. Of course, Intel has more angles to play here than raw hardware performance—the company has software partnerships with vendors like Adobe to make certain that its proprietary “value-added” features like Deep Learning Boost (aka AVX-512) are leveraged by those vendors.
In particular, the Adobe Premier, Photoshop, and Lightroom demonstrations leaned on AI-powered features using the Intel OpenVINO platform to perform inference workloads, taking advantage of Intel AVX-512 instructions. On the one hand, this is “unfair” to AMD—on the other hand, we’re not so certain that matters much to someone whose workload is largely Adobe Premier or other applications where Intel has gotten a software partnership foothold with the vendor.
Faster is faster, and slower is slower—as Intel manages to get the utilization of features like AVX-512 out into the wider application market, AMD will need to figure out a strategy to adapt and compete.
Deep marketing focus on Project Athena
Apart from the side-by-side video demonstrating Tiger Lake’s high performance, the most interesting part of the launch event wasn’t really about Tiger Lake at all—it was about Intel’s Project Athena laptop certification and verification platform, and its newest branding “Evo.” A full half of the all-day presentation was devoted entirely to Athena and Evo, with very little mention of the actual hardware underneath. Instead, Intel wanted to convey a message of researching, listening to, and adapting to how end customers use their laptops.
Athena and its subset Evo aim to create a guaranteed, branded level of user experience—with minimum values for targets, such as long battery life, light-weight screen brightness, rapid wake time, and so forth. Although you can’t call a non-Intel laptop “Evo”—the specification requires a Core i5 or Core i7 CPU—Intel’s marketing works hard to frame Tiger Lake as more of a way to achieve the whole-system user experience that Athena and Evo guarantee than as a fully fledged product in its own right.
We’re hesitant to make any firm proclamations about hardware we’ve only seen a few limited videos of—Intel has had a very rough couple of years, its marketing hasn’t always been the most accurate, and it desperately needs a win here. Its side-by-side “against the competition”—meaning Ryzen 4800U—videos are quite compelling, but we’ll need direct third-party testing to see just how much of the advantage shown might require an artificially narrow workload.
What we are pretty confident about is that Tiger Lake looks like a much more meaningful competitor for AMD than Intel has been able to field for the last few cycles. Intel credits its underlying SuperFIN technology for the majority of the improvements, and that technology will apply to new desktop CPU designs as well—so if Tiger Lake pans out well, we can expect to see a similar renaissance in Intel’s desktop CPUs in 2021.
We hope to get our hands on one or more Tiger Lake-powered laptops for independent testing and review in November, if not sooner.