Later this year Intel plans to launch its first Alder Lake mobile processors designed to combine two different CPU architectures on a single chip. The idea is to deliver up to a 14-core processor that features a mix of high-performance and energy-efficient CPU cores.
But Alder Lake-P chips won’t be the first processors from Intel to use this sort of design. Those would be the company’s Lakefield chips. The company released its first and only two Lakefield chips last summer. They weren’t very popular with PC makers. And now Intel has already discontinued the Lakefield product line.
The Intel Core i3-L13G4 and Core i5-L16G7 processors are five-core chips that combine four low-power, energy-efficient CPU cores based on Intel Tremont architecture (which is basically a version of Intel’s Atom technology) with a single Sunny Cove CPU core (using the same architecture as Intel’s 10th-gen Ice Lake chips).
Theoretically this was meant to allow PC makers to build thin and light computers that offered long battery life while delivering performance on par with what you’d expect from an entry-level machine with an Intel Core processor.
In practice, only a few devices ever shipped with Lakefield processors, including the Samsung Galaxy Book S and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold. The general consensus from reviewers was that you could get better performance from a device with an older Intel Core m3-8100Y processor (like a $630 Microsoft Surface Go 2) than you’d get from these devices, which sold for $1000+ and $2500+ at launch, respectively.
So in that sense, it’s not particularly surprising to see that Intel has issued a Product Change Notification indicating that it’s discontinuing its only Lakefield processors. What is a little surprising is just how quickly the company is doing that.
As AnandTech notes, normally Intel chips are around for 3-5 years before they’re discontinued. The Core i3-L13G4 and Core i5-L16G7 are just about a year old. Customers who still want to purchase chips can continued to do so for a few more months, but at this point it’s hard to imagine why anyone would do that.
Overall Lakefield comes off more like an intermediate step in Intel’s move toward heterogenous computing. They were the first to use Intel’s “Foveros” 3D stacking technology that allows the company to combine different CPU architectures in an attempt to do the same thing ARM does with its big.LITTLE designs. But that first step? It was little more than a technical demo.
It kind of reminds me of Intel’s first commercially produced 10nm chips. At a time when the company was struggling to move from the 14nm manufacturing process to 10nm, Intel released the Core i3-8121U processor. The 10nm processor was a dual-core, quad-thread chip with a 15 watt TDP, and it was the first and only chip ever released as part of Intel’s “Cannon Lake” family.
The processor didn’t deliver the kind of performance and efficiency gains folks had been hoping for from the move to 10nm, but it was at least a 10nm chip. It showed up in a Lenovo laptop sold exclusively in China and an Intel “Crimson Canyon” NUC mini-desktop featuring a Cannon Lake processor and AMD graphics. That little computer was introduced in mid-2018 and discontinued a little over a year later.
But since then Intel has improved its 10nm process and many of the company’s current-gen chips are manufactured on that node. So while I kind of feel bad for anyone who bought one of the only Cannon Lake PCs ever produced, the chips were a (maybe important?) stepping stone to get Intel to where it is today.
Likewise, Lakefield chips were an early test of Foveros technology and they could be precursors of much better things to come with Alder Lake and other next-gen chips. But as for Lakefield processors themselves? I kind of feel bad for anyone who spent money on an overpriced device like the Samsung Galaxy Book S or Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold. The good news is that it’s unlikely very many people did spend their money on those computers, because if they did then maybe Intel wouldn’t be cancelling the product lineup so soon.
Later this year Intel is expected to launch processors that mix high-performance
The Intel Core i3-L13G4 and i5-L16G7