Intel has been facing increased competition in recent years as AMD has seriously upped its game with its Ryzen processor family while Intel has struggled to move from 14nm to 10nm and lagged behind in graphics performance.
That could change this year. Intel’s upcoming Tiger Lake processors will feature Intel Xe-LP graphics, which should bring up to a 2X performance boost over last year’s Ice Lake chips, and could give AMD’s Ryzen 4000 processors a run for their money in graphics performance.
Intel Tiger Lake processors will also be the first chips to use the company’s new “Willow Cove” CPU architecture, which brings support for higher frequencies as well as a new manufacturing process that the company says brings big boosts in performance and efficiency.
Tiger Lake chips are still based on a 10nm process, like Ice Lake. But Intel changed the technology it uses to manufacture the chips using SuperMIM capacitors and redesigned FinFET transistors. The company calls the new tech SuperFin.
In the past, Intel probably would have called this 10nm+ or 10nm++ or something, but giving the new process a new name probably makes more sense. It also gives the company a new marketing term to use that might help distract us from the fact that the move to 7nm is running about 6 months behind schedule.
The upshot is that Intel says that Willow Cove and Tiger Lake represent the largest single intranode enhancement in Intel history — meaning the company is promising the kind of performance gains you’d expect from a move from one manufacturing node to another (like from 10nm to 7nm, for example).
According to Intel, Willow Cove CPU architecture offers higher speeds at lower power consumption that the “Sunny Cove” cores use in Ice Lake processors. Intel is promising a 10-20 percent performance CPU boost.
Intel is also increasing the amount of L2 and L3 cache in its chips, adding support for LPDDR5 memory and Thunderbolt 4. When you combine all for those features with the fact that these chips also feature Intel Xe-LP graphics, it should put Tiger Lake processors into a good position to compete with AMD’s Ryzen 4000 “Renoir” chips.
While Intel is describing the architecture used in the upcoming Tiger Lake processors this week, the company hasn’t yet provided details about specific model numbers yet. We’ll probably have to wait until September for that, when the first Tiger Lake processors (and the computers they power) are likely to be announced.