Intel is rethinking its low-cost, low-power processors for entry-level laptops in a big way this year. That mean a new name, new features, support for higher frequencies and more processor cores, and a new architecture… well kind of new.

The new Intel Alder Lake-N line of chips are basically what you’d get if you took Intel’s 12th-gen processors and only used Efficiency cores without any Performance cores. And that’s not a bad thing at all, because while the new chips won’t offer the same level of performance you’d expect from an Alder Lake-U, P, or H-series chip, they’re a big step up from the Jasper Lake processors that had previously been Intel’s go-to chips for laptops with starting prices below $400.

Alder Lake-N processors will be branded as Intel Processor Nxx or Intel Core i3-Nxx chips, depending on the model.

For example, the Intel Processor N200 is a 4-core, 4-thread chip with support for burst speeds up to 3.7 GHz. With PL1 and PL2 set at 6 watts and 25 watts, respectively, the chip should be pretty energy efficient.

The Intel Core i3-N305, meanwhile, is a 15-35W chip with 8 cores, 8-threads, and support for burst speeds up to 3.8 GHz. Basically it earns the Core i3 name by offering the kind of performance you’d expect from an entry-level Core chip rather than what Intel used to brand as Celeron or Pentium Silver. There’s no hyperthreading, but with 8 cores you might not miss it.

Alder Lake-N processors are manufactured using an Intel 7 process and use the same “Gracemont” architecture as the Efficiency cores in Alder Lake-U and faster chips. They feature Intel UHD integrated graphics with up to 32 execution units, and support for:

  • LPDDR5-4800, DDR5-4800, and DDR4-3200 RAM (single-channel only)
  • SSD, UFS 2.1, and eMMC storage
  • PCIe 3.0
  • 2 x SATA 3.0

Intel says it’s dropping the Celeron and Pentium branding because they were confusing for shoppers. That’s something I probably could have told the company a decade ago… repurposing older brands and giving them new meanings was bad enough. The fact that Intel offered both Pentium Silver (Intel Atom-based) and Pentium Gold (Intel Core-based) chips just made things even more confusing. So I’m not sad to see those names go… but I do wonder about the decision to include a Core i3 model. Hopefully using 3 digits after the Core i3 instead of 4 will help set it apart.

In terms of performance, Intel says you can expect an N200 processor to offer up to 28% better CPU performance than a previous-gen Pentium N6000 chip, and up to 56% better graphics. Things look even better if you jump up to a Core i3-N305 chip, which should bring a 42% uplift in CPU performance and 64% faster graphics.

Other features include support for WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, AV1 video decoding, 10-bit HEVC/VP9 video encoding and decoding, and support for up to three 4K HDR displays thanks to HDMI 2.0b support.

Here are some key specs for some of Intel’s new low-power chips:

ChipCoresThreadsBase / Boost freqL3 CacheGPUPower
Core i3-N30588Up to 3.8 GHz6MBIntel UHD (32EU / up to 1.25 GHz)15W
Intel Processor N9744Up to 3.6 GHz6MBIntel UHD (24EU / up to 1.2 GHz12W
Intel Processor N9544Up to 3.4 GHz6MBIntel UHD (16EU / up to 1.2 GHz15W
Core i3-N30088Up to 3.8 GHz6MBIntel UHD (32EU / up to 1.25 GHz)7W
Intel Processor N20044Up to 3.7 GHz6MBIntel UHD (32EU / up to 750 MHz)6W
Intel Processor N10044Up to 3.4 GHz6MBIntel UHD (24EU / up to 750 MHz)6W
Intel Processor N5022Up to 3.4 GHz6MBIntel UHD (16EU / up to 750 MHz)6W

Intel has also quietly added a few new 6-12W Alder Lake-N chips with Gracemont CPU cores to its “Atom” line of embedded chips for commercial customers:

ChipCoresThreadsBase / Boost freqL3 CacheGPUPower
Atom X7425E44Up to 3.4 GHz6MBIntel UHD (24EU / up to 1 GHz))12W
Atom X7213E22Up to 3.2 GHz6MBIntel UHD (16EU / up to 1 GHz10W
Atom X7211E22Up to 3.2 GHz6MBIntel UHD (16EU / up to 1 GHz)6W

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13 Comments

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  1. Such a mess in naming! It looks like there is will be another year and another names. I have an oDroid N2 as mini PC and it works well – it is low powered and passively cooled.

  2. Something Brad missed is that all the new SoCs in the charts above are all single-channel memory designs.

  3. First I was excited about N305/N300 to buy/build new efficient capable Mini PC.
    I uses Ramdisk and VM’s soi want min. 32GB better 64GB RAM.
    Now I am very disappointed to found out about the 16GB single channel limitation!! The absolute nogo killer. (Single channel might not be too bad with DDR5).
    $308 for this stupid 16GB limit – No thanks

    1. orange pi 5 is supposed to come with 32GB RAM at a good price (rk3588s) but I didn’t find where to buy it with this amount of RAM …

    2. We still can hope that the chips run larger RAM beyond the official specs. I successfully run the pre-predecessor Gemini Lake with 32GB – and also with a large ramdisk 😉 despite it officially only being capable of 8GB max.

    1. the market is missing some good netbooks with about 11-12 inch screen, preferably 16/10 or 3/2 … too bad the surface laptop go screen is not good … the surface laptop go is also noticeably heavier than a samsung book pro 13.3 … hopefully somebody will come with an interesting linux netbook with the rk3588s processor …

  4. “Hopefully using 3 digits after the Core i3 instead of 4 will help set it apart.”

    In my opinion it won’t, possibly they made things even worse, now the average Joe can become confused between an Atom based Core and a Core based Core. After all if Gold/Silver wasn’t enough it’s unlikely that a single digit will be very helpful.

    Also, the phrase “my laptop has an Intel Processor N200 processor” is going to be really funny. Maybe they could have used a new name or straighten the usage of the venerable Pentium/Celeron brands.

  5. Something the size and shape of a GPD Win 2, but with an N200 or N300 in it would be interesting. I wonder what the performance delta would be between those and the old 7y30…

    1. Depends on what that device is expected to do. Gaming? Might be double the performance from a 7y30. Might be higher with a Pentium Silver N6000.