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Sunday, June 16, 2024

That is Lunar Lake — Intel’s completely overhauled AI laptop computer chip that ditches reminiscence sticks

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Final yr, Intel boasted that its Meteor Lake processors, dubbed Core Ultra, represented the corporate’s greatest architectural shift in 40 years. However Intel didn’t cool down after that: right now it’s revealing how Lunar Lake, its next laptop chip coming this fall, will overhaul the system but once more.

Dealing with the existential threat of Arm and the chance of AI PCs, Intel has apparently ditched its famous tick-tock cadence for an entire new system-on-chip design, one which not solely triples the scale and greater than quadruples the efficiency of its AI accelerator, however guarantees as much as 14 % quicker CPU efficiency on the similar clockspeed, 50 % extra graphics efficiency, and as much as 60 % higher battery life than final yr’s mannequin.

“It’s x86 energy such as you’ve by no means seen it earlier than,” claims Intel technical marketer Rob Hallock, who says Intel tweaked each a part of the chip to make it occur. He says it’ll “positively” beat Qualcomm, too.

Right here’s an early glimpse at an actual Lunar Lake chip, the place you may clearly see its two chunks of onboard reminiscence under the primary silicon.
Picture: Intel

The most important change? For those who purchase a Lunar Lake laptop computer, it gained’t have separate reminiscence sticks or chips! Lunar Lake now bakes 16 or 32GB of LPDDR5X reminiscence into the bundle itself, with no means to attach extra RAM. It’s a change that reduces the ability consumption of shifting knowledge by means of the system by roughly 40 %, in keeping with Intel. For individuals who want extra reminiscence, Hallock says a separate Arrow Lake structure is coming to laptops later this yr.

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After hours of poring by means of slide decks and shows, plus a fast chat with Hallock, right here’s all the pieces else I simply realized.

8 cores, no hyperthreading

Final yr’s Meteor Lake contained a wild new “3D performance hybrid architecture” with masses of Efficiency (P), Effectivity (E), and even a pair of brand-new Low Energy Effectivity (LP-E) cores on a separate tile dubbed the “low energy island.”

That island was constructed like a smartphone, a primary for Intel, with its personal Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, show controllers, reminiscence, and people low-power CPU cores. The concept: you may theoretically save battery life by by no means heating up different tiles and greater cores except you’re doing greater duties.

Picture slider: Meteor Lake’s LP cores vs. Lunar Lake’s containment zones.

Nevertheless it didn’t work. Apps like Microsoft Groups wound up warming the whole chip. So Intel is axing the LP-E cores after just one yr — in favor of a brand new 4 by 4 system. You stand up to 4 new “Lion Cove” P-cores and 4 new “Skymont” E-Cores in a Lunar Lake chip. These E-cores now run as quick as an LP-E core at one-third the ability, or scale to 2x or 4x the efficiency (single-threaded vs. multi-threaded).

And with a brand new thread director, Home windows can now create “containment zones” that really maintain “most actual workloads” on the Skymont E-cores, Microsoft and Intel declare.

The LP-E cores “didn’t constrain all of the workloads we had hoped or needed the island to deal with, so we weren’t getting the total entitlement of battery life and effectivity we had hoped for,” says Hallock.
Picture: Intel

“That is key to Lunar Lake battery life: we are able to run extra workloads in a decrease energy atmosphere on a decrease energy core with fewer issues turned on, and nonetheless offer you an awesome consumer expertise,” says Intel fellow Stephen Robinson.

Microsoft Groups makes use of 35 % much less energy on Lunar Lake due to these adjustments, Intel claims — although Intel says it could’t but translate that to hours for me.

Equally, Intel has lastly axed Hyper-Threading as a result of the SMT technology eats extra energy and actual property than it’s price. “Including extra cores is barely extra die space” than the doubled parts of circuitry wanted to make HT work, Hallock admits, however he says the E-cores are so compact and succesful now that HT merely not is smart.

Extra efficiency in all places

Talking of succesful E-cores, Intel’s Skymont has one other shock: this yr’s E-core is extra highly effective and environment friendly than final yr’s P-core at typical laptop computer clockspeeds — with as much as 20 % extra single-threaded efficiency. It simply can’t scale as much as practically as many gigahertz:

“Raptor Cove for peak efficiency, Skymont for extra efficiency ISO energy or ISO efficiency at decrease energy,” says Intel.
Picture: Intel

Right here we’re zoomed into the blue field on the companion graph. Label your axes, Intel!
Picture: Intel

The 4 “Lion Cove” P-cores, in the meantime, supply a 14 % efficiency enhance clock for clock, although Intel wouldn’t present clockspeed numbers so we are able to actually evaluate. However general, says Hallock, efficiency is “generationally very considerably up” in comparison with final yr.

Intel’s new P-cores even have extra efficiency at decrease energy.
Picture: Intel

Within the GPU realm, Intel is much more certain of itself: the corporate says its Xe2 GPU provides 1.5x the graphics efficiency of Meteor Lake (in 3DMark Time Spy) which itself was 2x the efficiency of the earlier technology. It’s nonetheless acquired the identical variety of Xe cores and different useful items, however with quite a lot of efficiency and effectivity enhancements.

And whereas assuredly not all Lunar Lake chips can be equal, Intel says it didn’t have to separate its Xe laptop computer GPU into two completely different flavors for decrease and better wattage: Xe2 can now scale throughout the spectrum of sunshine and medium-weight laptops all by itself. Intel additionally says the GPU provides 67 TOPS of AI efficiency, along with the NPU.

Xe2 replaces each Meteor Lake H and Meteor Lake U GPUs.
Picture: Intel

A tripled NPU

Meteor Lake didn’t actually kick off the AI laptop computer technology the way in which that Intel hoped. In reality, you may argue it left early adopters within the chilly — with simply 11.5 TOPS price of AI acceleration, their NPU falls far shy of Microsoft’s 40 TOPS requirement for Copilot Plus PCs.

However Lunar Lake triples the quantity of NPU {hardware} on the die, doubles the reminiscence bandwidth, and boosts the clockspeed from 1.4GHz to 1.95GHz —providing as much as 48 TOPS and an estimated 2x to 4x efficiency general.

Tripled AI {hardware}.
Picture: Intel

The tripled {hardware} does draw slightly extra energy, however Intel says it’s considerably quicker: simply 5.8 seconds for 20 iterations of Steady Diffusion for Lunar Lake vs. 20.9 seconds for Meteor Lake, whereas pulling 11.2 watts as an alternative of 9 watts beforehand.

Intel says its software program companions are at the moment constructing 350 AI options for PCs due by means of 2025.

Every little thing else that caught my eye or ear

  • Lunar Lake now natively helps H.266 VVC video for an extra 10 % filesize discount over AV1 “on the similar high quality”.
  • You get Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4 baked into the chip — although it nonetheless requires a companion PCIe module for the bodily radios and antenna connectors.
  • Intel claims it takes 55 % much less time to get up wi-fi when waking up the machine.
  • eDP 1.5 with “panel replay” and different strategies can save as much as (emphasis on “as much as”) 351mW of energy by not repeatedly drawing the identical pictures on display.
  • There’s a brand new devoted Companion Safety Engine on the chip that’s “successfully Microsoft Pluton,” Intel says, with its personal processor, fuse, and crypto portion.
  • Lunar Lake’s onboard reminiscence means motherboards can and can shrink — “there are some fascinating design win choices coming,” says Hallock.
  • Lunar Lake’s Compute Tile is certainly constructed on TSMC’s N3B processor, with the platform controller on TSMC’s N6, although Intel says it does all of the design, meeting, and packaging.
  • Intel says it could dynamically regulate the pace of the RAM to scale back Wi-Fi interference.
  • Intel says it could dynamically regulate clockspeed in 16.67MHz intervals (down from 100MHz) to optimize efficiency.
  • Each Lunar Lake system will get two Thunderbolt 4 ports “You’re assured a minimal of two Thunderbolt 4 ports on each Lunar Lake system that you just contact,” says Hallock.
  • Intel, like Qualcomm, will promote a Mac Mini-like AI PC growth package later this yr — one which Intel says can be upgradable to Panther Lake chips once they’re out there.

The Intel AI PC Growth Package, with 32GB of RAM, two USB-C, two USB-A, and HDMI.
Picture: Intel

Intel says an enormous wave of Lunar Lake laptops will arrive later this yr, with 80 completely different designs throughout 20 {hardware} companions at launch, together with all the largest PC distributors — although not Microsoft, which selected to go together with Qualcomm’s chips for its Surface Laptop and Surface Pro instead. Intel’s consumer chip boss Michelle Johnston Holthaus says all 80 designs ought to be out there forward of the vacations this yr.

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