Intel is treading on thin ice with its latest endeavor, Meteor Lake. However, it seems that the company will just barely meet its self-imposed deadline of releasing the new 4nm CPU before the year comes to a close. Set to be launched on December 14th, Intel has aptly named the event “AI Everywhere,” aiming to showcase its AI capabilities across various sectors such as the data center, the cloud, and the edge. While this may seem like cause for celebration, it leaves us wondering if Intel is trying too hard to compensate for its recent struggles in the market.

Thanks to multiple briefings from Intel, we have garnered some knowledge about Meteor Lake. It is important to note that this CPU is primarily designed for mobile devices, making it unlikely to be compatible with desktop PC sockets. On the crucial date of December 14th, Intel will finally reveal crucial information about Meteor Lake, including the initial CPU models that will potentially make up Intel’s 14th Gen mobile CPU family. Nevertheless, Intel’s rebranding to Core Ultra leaves us questioning their marketing strategies and intentions.

Meteor Lake’s architecture is a culmination of both groundbreaking and more conventional elements. The most significant change lies in its chiplet design, featuring four distinct feature dies, or tiles, stacked on top of a fifth silicon slice that acts as the connector. These tiles include the compute tile housing the CPU cores, a graphics tile, an SoC tile consisting of the media engine, memory controller, AI cores, and other components, an IO tile encompassing Thunderbolt and PCIe, and finally, the base tile serving as the foundation for all the other components. Notably, the compute tile will be the first commercially available silicon fabricated using Intel 4, previously known as 7nm. Strangely, the graphics tile and the other three feature tiles are produced by TSMC, with the graphics tile on TSMC’s 5nm node and the remaining two on an undisclosed TSMC node, likely either 5nm or 6nm. This decision raises some eyebrows, given Intel’s reputation for struggling with advanced nodes. One would expect Intel to rely on its own legacy nodes for the less performance-sensitive SoC and IO tiles while outsourcing the CPU cores and the graphics tile to TSMC. However, Intel has taken the plunge with Intel 4 for the CPU tile, while the SoC and IO tiles are left to a legacy TSMC node, and the graphics tile utilizes the TSMC 5nm process.

Moderate Improvements in CPU Cores and Novelty in SoC Island

While Meteor Lake’s CPU cores are not anticipated to be a significant leap from those in Raptor Lake, there is a novel addition in the form of the Low Power Island. Intel has managed to incorporate a couple of Efficient cores into the SoC tile, enabling power reduction in low-demand scenarios and promising considerable energy savings. On the GPU side, Intel has actively touted the enhanced capabilities of the new integrated graphics in Meteor Lake, claiming that it performs twice as well as their previous offerings and nearly matches the performance of an Nvidia RTX 3050. If this claim holds true, it would be a noteworthy achievement and position the chip ahead of AMD’s 780M iGPU found in devices like the Asus ROG Ally. However, such claims should be approached with skepticism until we witness concrete evidence of its performance.

The announcement of Meteor Lake carries a faint sense of desperation. Intel has made grandiose promises about delivering an array of new process nodes within tight timeframes, and the success of keeping the schedule on track hinges upon launching Meteor Lake with its Intel 4 CPU cores this year. Nevertheless, skepticism lingers regarding the extent of immediate widespread availability after the December event. Will Meteor Lake laptops be readily accessible, or will it take a considerable amount of time for the new Core Ultra chips to integrate into devices that are commercially viable? It is likely that we will not see actual laptops featuring Meteor Lake until 2024, leaving us to ponder the validity of Intel’s timeline and their ability to deliver on their goals.

Hardware

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