The Tiger Lake processor implements a novel CPU architecture called ‘Willow Lake’ with additional instructions and includes a novel graphics processing unit called Iris Xe.
Intel claims the combination makes Tiger Lake the world’s best processor for thin-and-light laptop computers. The processor is packaged with a companion chip to perform WiFi6 communications in its target market, personal computers, as Intel expects to sell the processor into Windows- and ChromeOS-based laptop computers.
The 10nm manufacturing process is described as including SuperFin technology. The 10nm SuperFin has an improved metal interconnect stack with resistance reduced by 30 percent. At an Intel event in August 2020 chief architect Raja Koduri claimed that use of the SuperFin technology provided nearly the equivalent performance uplift of a full-node transition.
Intel has previously argued that its 10nm process is roughly equivalent to the competition’s 7nm so a further node increase would put Intel roughly on a par with 5nm. Intel has announced it plans to use foundry services to make 7nm products as a follow on to 10nm products somewhat undermining that argument (see Intel goes foundry for 7nm due to yield issues).
The 10nm Tiger Lake processor is part of Intel’s U-series and binned into three performance bands; i3, i5 and i7
The use of SuperFin allows the processors to achieve clock frequencies of up to 4.8GHz and they come in a range of capabilities from 2 cores with UHD graphics and 6Mbytes of on-chip cache up to 4 cores with Xe graphics and 12Mbytes of on-chip cache. The instructions set includes support for neural network inferencing on integrated graphics with native support for the INT8 data type. Power consumption varies from a 7 to 15W range at the low end up to 12 to 28W at the high end.
Intel has higher performance processors with more cores but implemented in the older 14nm FinFET technology.
Intel did not say when computers based on the Tiger Lake processor would be available to buy but did say there are more than 150 designs in development. Intel has lost one key customer Apple, which is moving to using internally-designed processors based on the ARM architecture (see More details emerge of Apple’s eviction of Intel processors from PCs).
One of the reasons Intel lost the Apple business is that the introduction of the 10nm process at Intel has been dogged with delays. However, CEO Bob Swan did say recently that 10nm production is now ramping faster than expected, even while he was confessing that Intel would have to go foundries for 7nm production.
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