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Intel finally launches 10th-gen "Ice Lake", its first 10-nanometer processor

By Aaron Yip - on 2 Aug 2019, 1:32pm

Intel finally launches 10th-gen "Ice Lake", its first 10-nanometer processor

Intel has been hyping its 10th-generation “Ice Lake” processor for a while now, and the chipmaker has announced that these chips are now officially available for laptop makers to use.

Here’s everything we know about the new CPU that will very likely power the next laptop you buy this holiday.

It’s Intel’s first 10-nanometer silicon processor

Intel’s struggles to manufacture 10-nanometer (let’s just call it 10-nm now) has been well documented, and that gave rivals like AMD and other chipmakers using ARM-based chips a chance to catch up and in some areas even outperform its existing processors.

So, it’s no surprise then that the company is taking every opportunity to trumpet its new 10-nm processors.

Why did Intel struggle with 10-nm?

Remember Moore’s Law?

It’s an old observation that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every year while the costs are halved, and it’s been held for a long time. But that has been slowing down lately. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, transistors shrunk in size by half every two years, leading to massive improvements on a regular schedule.

But further shrinking has gotten more complicated, and we haven’t seen a transistor shrink from Intel since 2014 when it began manufacturing its 9th-generation processors on 14nm process technology. So, these new 10-nm processors are the first major shrinks in a long time, especially from Intel, and represent a brief rekindling of Moore’s law for the chipmaker.

Okay, so what’s the big deal with Ice Lake?

Photo: Intel

Intel made the new 10th-gen Core processors with improvements in three key areas. First, Ice Lake has been designed with Artificial Intelligence in mind. During a presentation at Computex 2019 with select tech media, we learned that there’s a new “dedicated instruction set” called Deep Learning Boost, for support of neural networks on the CPU and a dedicated engine for background workloads.

In one demo, Intel showed how A.I. can be used to remove unwanted background noise for clearer audio in Skype calls. The use of A.I. will also result in less stress on the processor, allowing notebook users to experience longer battery life. 

The second improvement is the integrated graphics capability in the processor, aka the new Intel Iris Plus. Intel has claimed that Ice Lake’s new graphic architecture offers double the performance of the previous chip and will also have HDR capability (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision standards will be supported). This means that gamers and content creators will be able to play games on 1080p or render 4K videos faster on their laptops.

Finally, Ice Lake will have support for the new and speedier Wi-Fi 6 standard, and PC makers will also be able to build their laptops with up to four Thunderbolt 3 ports.

When will we see laptops with Intel’s 10th-gen processors?

Photo: Intel

According to Intel, there will be 11 variations of Ice Lake processors. These range from the low-end and low-powered Core i3, to the top-end quad-core Core i7. We do not have the exact dates, but it’s safe to assume laptops with Ice Lake processors (read our coverage on Intel’s Project Athena) will be available for purchase by this holiday. It’s also very likely that PC makers such as HP, Dell and Lenovo will showcase their new machines at IFA Berlin next month.

You keep talking about laptops, what about desktops?

We don’t know either, to be honest. Despite the leaks going around, Intel has kept fairly mum about its other 10th-gen processor, codenamed Comet Lake. We’ll just have to stay tuned for this one.

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