Intel unveils the world's fastest laptop processors

By Bloomberg | 02 Apr 2020 at 18:22hrs
Intel Corp. is trying to sell its new laptop chips in an old way - by emphasizing their speed.

The world's biggest chipmaker is touting the clock speed of its new H line of processors, citing their ability to process data at more than 5 gigahertz, or 5 billion cycles a second.

"Frequency is the thing we've optimized for," said Fredrik Hamberger, an Intel general manager. "These are the first mobile processors to break 5 gigahertz."

Laptops based on these new 10th-generation Core design chips will start to appear in April. The top-of-the-range part can count as fast as 5.3 gigahertz when operating in "Turbo Boost" mode, Intel said. That targets video gamers and professional content creators who often influence what is considered the best PC hardware.

The new products are being rolled out as Intel faces rising threats to its industry leadership. Smaller rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. started fielding more competitive chips about two years ago.

Intel pioneered the sale of processors based on clock speed. In 2001, then company President Paul Otellini promised Intel's Pentium design would scale all the way to 20 gigahertz. But the company's engineers underestimated how much power was needed, and how much heat would be generated by such chips.

As the new century progressed, laptops became more popular, and those slim designs couldn't handle power-hungry, hot processors as well as desktop machines. So Intel and the industry started making multi-core semiconductors that combined several processors into one. Performance was now measured by the ability to run different workloads at the same time, rather than pure speed.

AMD sells new processors that have more cores than Intel chips, garnering praise from gamers and PC reviewers. That's helped the smaller company take market share from Intel.

Intel has also struggled to maintain its lead in manufacturing technology. AMD outsources manufacturing to specialists such as TSMC, which has production technology that is well ahead of Intel's.

The new H range of Intel chips are made with 14-nanometer production technology. The company originally planned to upgrade to 10-nanometer in 2017, but that is only beginning to happen in mass volume this year. AMD's latest processors use TSMC's 7-nanometer capabilities.

Intel says most video games don't take advantage of multi-core chips and are best served by higher clock speeds. Some 60% of the new models in the H range will be capable of hitting that 5-gigahertz mark or higher, it said. That speed is only achieved in short bursts on limited numbers of cores, or just single cores in a "turbo" mode that shuts down other cores.

The base rate, the normal operating speed of the chips, is between 2 and 3 gigahertz, where most of the industry's products have been for more than a decade.



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