Cameras

CES 2021’s Chip Announcements: Mobile Takes Center Stage



Credit: Intel

Every year, we get lots of processor announcements at CES. While this year’s show is completely virtual, this has continued with AMD, Intel, and Nvidia all introducing significant products, particularly new components for laptop computers. Here are my thoughts on some of these announcements.

Intel

Intel’s announcements focused on the firm’s 11th Gen Core processors, mostly in the 10nm “Tiger Lake” family. Intel had announced the first Tiger Lake mobile processors in the fall, but really expanded the line at CES with processors aimed at the business and gaming markets.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing the mobile business products, especially those that support vPro, Intel’s platform for security and management. Until now, all of the enterprise laptops based on Intel processors have used variations of the 14nm process first introduced all the way back at the end of 2014, and though Intel has improved its process and products through then, up through the current Comet Lake chips, it’s good to finally see a 10nm option. The new products are based on Intel’s 10nm “SuperFin” process, with Iris Xe graphics and Wi-Fi 6/6E support.

Intel announced 27 versions of Tiger Lake for business. For the vPro models, Intel touted security, management, and performance compared with AMD’s Ryzen. In particular, it pushed vPro’s Control-flow Enforcement Technology (CET), designed to help protect against certain malware attacks on memory. Intel claimed performance advantages in areas like video editing and productivity while video conferencing; as always I take such performance claims with a grain of salt until I can test the actual systems.

Intel also announced the Tiger Lake-H (11th Gen Core H series) processors for mobile gaming. The H-series are 45-watt processors as compared with the 15-watt U-series used in the business processors and the earlier Tiger Lake ones.

This includes a Core i7 special edition 4-core processor with up to 5GHz Turbo (H35), due in the first half of 2021 and designed for use in machines as thin as 16.6 mm. This quarter Intel will be shipping an 8-core version with 20 lanes of PCIe 4.0 (40 GBps total memory bandwidth) and up to 5 GHz, most likely for somewhat thicker designs. In the keynote, Intel showed a demo of a machine that also used the upcoming Nvidia 3080 mobile graphics, and you could tell this is an area where Intel is seeing much more competition.

Intel also announced lower-performance Tiger Lake-N processors, to be sold under the Pentium Silver and Celeron names, and mostly aimed at the Chromebook market. Intel compared these with the MediaTek 8183 processor.

Intel discussed the upcoming 11th Gen Core S-series, known as “Rocket Lake-S,” aimed at the desktop market. These are a follow-up to the Comet Lake processors, still based on a 14nm process, but including the newer Sunny Cove cores used in Tiger Lake, which Intel says have a 19 percent gain in instructions per clock compared with the previous generation. These will have 20 PCIe 4.0 lanes. These should be formally launched later this quarter.

Finally, Intel offered a sneak peak of Alder Lake, the follow-up to Tiger Lake, due out in the second half of 2021, likely first for high-end consumer laptops. This is a big change to the architecture, as it will combine both high-performance cores and high-efficiency cores (like ARM’s big.LITTLE). This will use Intel’s “enhanced 10nm SuperFin process with faster transistors and an improved MIM capacitor. Intel showed a working system, but didn’t give any benchmarks. In addition, Intel mentioned that its first 10nm server product (“Ice Lake -SP”) is now in production, with a volume ramp due later this quarter.

AMD

AMD CEO Lisa Su gave one of the CES keynotes, and used this to introduce the firm’s Ryzen 5000 mobile processors. These use the Zen 3 cores, introduced on the desktop Ryzen 5000 series last year, which AMD says offers 19 percent more performance per core compared with the Ryzen 4000. Both are produced on a 7nm process at TSMC.

For thin and light notebooks, the flagship in this line will be the Ryzen 7 5800 U, with 8 cores, 16 threads and 4.4GHz max boost. AMD showed benchmarks of it against the current Intel Tiger Lake systems; not surprisingly it showed better performance, particularly at things like digital content creation. Again, every company shows benchmarks that their products look good at, so I’ll wait to see the real products. But it’s clear from machines I’ve tested over the past year, such as the Ryzen based HP EliteBook 845, that AMD has become much more competitive in mobile computing.

Su also talked about how the new generation provides much longer battery life. Note the versions AMD is launching now are the ones aimed at consumer and small-business markets; the more enterprise-targeted Ryzen Pro variants are due later in this half of the year. The first Ryzen 5000 mobile products will be available in February.

For gaming notebooks, AMD introduced the HX series, which will be unlocked for overclocking, with a higher thermal rating. Top of the line will be the Ryzen 9 5900 HX, with the 5980 HX variant able to go up to 4.8 GHz max boost. (It’s 8 cores/16 threads.) She said this will allow smooth gaming at 4K. Again, these are 45-watt processors, which go up against Intel’s H-series.

Most importantly, Su said that 150 mobile systems designed for Ryzen 5000 are expected to ship this year, up from 100 Ryzen 4000 mobile systems last year. Intel has thus far said it has more than 120 Tiger Lake designs, so you can tell the market has changed dramatically.

For the Gaming market, she noted that the firm’s Radeon RX 6000 high-end systems started shipping at the end of last year and showed a preview of the mobile version running in a gaming laptop at 1440p. She said that this should be out in the first half of 2021, as well as new mainstream desktop graphics card, but didn’t give many details.

Similarly, on servers, she demonstrated the 3rd Gen AMD Epyc processor (Milan) with up to 64 Zen 3 cores, which will be announced later this quarter. She showed a demo of a 32-core version running a weather research and forecast app (WRF) much faster than the 28-core Intel Xeon Gold 6258R and said the 64-core version should be even faster, though again I’m sure it depends on the test.

Nvidia

Nvidia as well focused on laptops at its announcement today (not technically at CES, but online it’s hard to tell), although it also introduced a new mainstream desktop graphics card.

The big thing is a series of 3000 series (Ampere) mobile products, which they described as the 2nd generation RTX, and the third generation of its Max-Q platform for thin and light design laptops.

The new Max-Q has features such as dynamic boost 2.0, which uses AI to shift power between CPU, the GPU, and GPU memory on a per frame basis; whisper mode, which gives acoustic control; the ability to do multiple updates of memory at the same time, and DLSS support for more performance and better battery life.

The new graphics chips come in three flavors. The RTX 3060 is supposedly 30 percent faster than the PlayStation 5, offering 90 FPS at 1080p, with laptops starting at $999. The RTX 3070 is supposed to have 50% more performance than last year’s RTX 2070, offering 90 FPS at 1440p, with laptops starting at $1299. The top end is the RTX 3080 with up to 16GB of GDDR 6 memory, able to do 100 FPS at 1440p, in laptops starting at $1999. Over the past four years, Nvidia said gaming laptops are now half the thickness and weight and offer 10 times the performance.

They also showed off Nvidia Studio, the same chips used for content creation, with some rather impressive demos of things such as using AI for masking in video editing. The mobile products will be available Jan 26, and Nvidia says they have 70 design wins.

On the desktop side, Nvidia introduced the RTX 3060, which is the least expensive product in its 3000 series, based on the Ampere architecture, at $329 with 12GB of memory. Nvidia said this will offer 13 shader teraflops, 25 RT teraflops, and 101 TensorFlow Tops. This is due out in late February.

As usual, Nvidia showed a lot of game demos, and the firm says there are now 36 titles enhanced for its RTX ray tracing now shipping, and announced a few more. I thought the demo of Flight Simulator looked amazing.

From all of the vendors, the mobile products announced this week should be available soon, as all of the usual PC vendors are announcing systems with either Intel 11th Generation Core (Tiger Lake) or Ryzen 5000 processors this week, and quite a number are doing gaming systems with those processors and Nvidia 3000 series graphics as well.


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *