In a workshop centered on leading-edge laptop-PC performance, Intel, during the lead-up to 2021’s Computex show, reiterated claims of performance hegemony with a detailed testing summary of its latest mobile processors versus older generations and competition from AMD. More of the moment, however, the company also gave a sneak peek of potential performance with one of its new “Tiger Lake-U Refresh” chips, announced today.
The latest higher-wattage Intel 11th Generation Core Tiger Lake-H mobile CPUs (see our first look at the latest H-Series performance) are just starting to appear in laptops on the market in recent weeks. (Our review of the Aorus 17G YD details the first retail model we’ve laid hands on.) Teased at CES 2021 in some early 35-watt (“Tiger Lake-H35”) versions meant for smaller screened (14- and 15-inch) ultraportable gaming machines, the H-Series chips now range higher. The newest are intended for more muscular classic (15-inch and 17-inch) gaming laptops, as well as notebooks for power users and content creators.
The new 11th Generation Tiger Lake-U Refresh chips, in contrast, are destined for thin-and-light laptops. Usually, this kind of laptop will rely on the CPU’s integrated silicon for graphics acceleration, and these chips have Intel’s best. The two new U chips will interleave with, not replace, the CPUs in the existing Tiger Lake-U line.
U Refresh Hits the Bench
The Core i7-1195G7, the upper of the two Tiger Lake-U Refresh models (the other is a Core i5-1155G7), is Intel’s new flagship ultramobile CPU and the focus of the Computex presentation related to the U Series. Clock-speed upticks are the main story with the two U Refresh chips, but across the 11th Generation U-Series, Intel reiterated the line’s incorporation of support for emerging Wi-Fi 6E networking and specific intrinsic advantages for content-creation tasks such as video transcoding.
The major spec tweak with the Core i7-1195G7? Support for boost clock rates of up to 5GHz via ITBM 3.0, as indicated in our summary of the U-Series chips below. The table shows the existing chip models, with the two new ones in their relative places in the line..
ITBM 3.0 is the latest revision of Intel’s Turbo Boost Max, the company’s per-core acceleration technology. For tasks that employ just a few cores (or a single core) and with ITBM 3.0 engaged, the compute load is directed to the few cores that firmware deems are most optimized for high-speed operation. That’s done because on a given die, not all cores are created equal—core-to-core efficiency varies from individual die sample to die sample.
In the background, the technology takes advantage of the most suitable cores when the compute load calls for it. This is most advantageous for tasks that are “bursty” or lightly threaded, versus sustained all-core grinding jobs. And having a 5GHz peak on at least one core can pay dividends.
Here, we have the Core i7-1195G7 set against the Ryzen 7 5800U, a comparably positioned AMD mobile CPU (from the family dubbed “Cezanne” during its development) that is equal in core and thread count (8C/16TH)…
Not all of this is down to pure gigahertz; far from it. The selected programs Intel showed are a mix of video and photo editing and transcoding programs, some with specific optimizations that Intel’s 11th Generation Core employs for specific file types and codecs. Just as intriguing is a handy matrix the company shared that, it says, outlines specifics in terms of hardware acceleration support for specific codecs…
Also on offer: a brief taster of productivity performance between the same two CPU models…
Note that the tests in the left two bar sets rely on “typical use” workflows developed by Intel. (Ditto for the “Video Editing Workflow” in the first chart set.)
All of this, of course, is Intel’s selected data and to be taken with a grain of salt given that it’s Intel’s presentation, Intel’s rules. Also note that the Core i7-1195G7 is marked at working at a range of 28 watts to 35 watts, higher than the 15 to 35 watts of the AMD sample.
That said, given the company’s fine-grained focus on content-creation optimizations, and the relative number of in-market laptops with its silicon inside versus AMD’s, it’s a compelling case for diving deeper into the nuances of content-creation performance with these rival chips as we get more hardware in house for independent testing.
Tiger Lake-U Refresh: Gaming With Integrated Graphics
Intel also showed off some new numbers for gaming using a Tiger Lake-U Refresh chip’s integrated graphics processor (IGP). The IGP, dubbed Intel Iris Xe, is not new in this go-around; it debuted with the initial Tiger Lake-U chips, in the Core i7 and i5 SKUs, toward the end of 2020. (See our explainer on Iris Xe.)
However, as ever, some games benefit from raw CPU performance and clock increases on a few cores, while others rely more on the muscle of the GPU. In this performance tease, Intel mapped its own in-labs performance with a host of esports and popular AAA titles. The examples used the flagship Tiger Lake-U Refresh chip, faced off against the IGP on (once again) the rival Ryzen 7 5800U, in machines from MSI and HP, respectively.
This group notably isn’t heavy on new AAA titles, which are a challenge for any IGP solution. The graphics in the AMD-based ProBook are eight-core Radeon Graphics, which have received lesser attention in 2020-21 due to the much larger volume of Iris Xe-based laptops on the market so far.
As you can see, the biggest performance differential on display was in the bar set at right (Valheim, the recent Norse-themed hit crafting title). Intel also illustrated with a quick demo of Valheim running under Iris Xe (on the right, below)…
In addition, Intel discussed an emerging feature in the DirectX 12 graphics API, dubbed Sampler Feedback and incorporated into DX12 Ultimate. Like many recent graphics-performance-enhancing technologies, Sampler Feedback requires support both in the PC hardware and software, as well as incorporation into the given graphics application or game. Sampler Feedback keeps a record of texture-sampling data and the location of textures within an application and makes it more readily available, which reduces load on memory and can boost responsiveness.
UL (formerly Futuremark), the independent PC-benchmarking leader, has recently incorporated a test in its seminal 3DMark suite to measure relative adherence to the Sampler Feedback feature. Intel shared a slide detailing the Core i7-1195G7/Iris Xe against the Ryzen 7 5800U/Radeon Graphics on this trial…
The extent of adoption of Sampler Feedback across the three necessary legs of the stool (hardware, software, and individual games) remains to be seen.
Much more will become clear as we get Core i7-1195G7 laptops samples into PC Labs for testing. To date, we have tested just a handful (three, to be exact) of retail laptops using the Core i7-1185G7, the top-end U-Series chip before the Tiger Lake-U Refresh Core i7 came along; the latest is the HP ZBook Firefly 15 G8. (Much more often, we have tested the step-down Core i7-1165G7, in 16 laptops so far, so it remains to be seen how widely adopted the Core i7-1195G7 will be.) Stay tuned to future PCMag reviews, as well as to our Computex 2021 feed for more news and reveals from the virtual show.