Intel's 10th generation Ice Lake mobile CPUs were the company's long-awaited entry into 10nm processors, but they were just the beginning. Tiger Lake is the name of the 11th generation replacement architecture for Ice Lake and brings significant improvements in processor and graphics performance as well as some built-in features like the new generation wireless connectivity and the vastly improved A.I. Performance.
More interested in a desktop alternative? These are the best Intel processors you can buy right now.
Prices and availability
Originally planned for 2021, Intel's Tiger Lake CPUs were finally released in the final days of September 2020. Introducing the new generation chips with faster and more efficient CPU and GPU cores, Intel highlighted the performance improvements of the new architecture and the final introduction of its long-awaited Xe graphics engine.
Intel took the unusual step of making a small number of Tiger Lake laptops available to reviewers prior to launch in mid-September, where we were allowed to publish benchmark results to demonstrate the performance of the new CPU and GPU combination. However, we were not allowed to measure battery life as these laptops were not fully configured for retail sales.
The introduction of 10th generation Ice Lake CPUs has been slow and steady, and so has the 11th generation. Tiger Lake. Currently you can find very similarand Laptops for sale side by side. While we expect new models to be released continuously in the first half of 2021, you still need to take a certain amount of care to ensure that you are purchasing the latest technology instead of last year's model.
Intel Tiger Lake offers significant performance improvements over Ice Lake in terms of both CPU and GPU, although prices have remained stable and the cost of individual CPUs is largely the same in both generations. That could change in the future, however, as there are good signs that Intel is responding to competition from AMD in the wireless sector.
Tiger Lake is based on an advanced 10nm process node called 10nm SuperFIN. While there are some improvements over Ice Lake at an architectural level, the key to Tiger Lake lies in its Willow Cove cores, which use SuperFIN transistors to generate clock speeds that were out of reach for the Sunny Cove cores in Ice Lake CPUs .
With the new SuperFIN transistors, Willow Cove and thus Tiger Lake can be operated with the clock rates we are used to from gaming laptops, at which Ice Lake was around 1 GHz below the nominal value. The Ice Lake Core i7-1065G7 has a maximum turbo frequency of 3.90 GHz, while the comparable Tiger Lake Core i7-1165G7 only has 4.70 GHz.
This increase in clock speed has some fascinating consequences. When Digital Trends reported rumors about Tiger Lake prior to its launch, we reported that an early tech example of the Tiger Lake Core i7-1185G7 was clocked at 3 GHz (via TUM APISAK). The CPU achieved 1,414 points in the UL 3DMark Time Spy benchmark. The breakdown revealed that the quad-core chipset scored 1,296 points in the graphics test and 2,922 points in the processor test.
That was an exciting leading indicator of his abilities, but it turned out that Tiger Lake could go much further as well.
As this screenshot shows, these preview numbers underestimate the performance you are likely to see from Intel Tiger Lake. The explanation is that Tiger Lake can run at 3.6GHz on all cores under sustained load, provided you feed it with enough power. This adds a significant variable to any performance data you see for Tiger Lake because you need to understand the performance settings before the test results make any sense.
In post-release testing, Tiger Lake CPUs showed solid single-core test results in Cinebench R20. In it, Intel Ice Lake and AMD Ryzen 7 4800U CPUs are destroyed by the new Intel Tiger Lake, while AMD recovers in the multi-core test to take the win. You will find that AMD has eight cores versus Intel's four cores. So it's no surprise that AMD is winning. However, Intel Tiger Lake uses a little more power than AMD to fill the void.
In the preview laptop, the Intel Tiger was set to 28W in balanced mode and 41.5W in high-performance mode. This is bold considering that the Core i7-1185G7 has a specified TDP of 28W and a TDP of 12W. In other words, you could buy a new thin and light Tiger Lake laptop with its TDP configured to a fraction of the power consumed in the benchmarks shown above, and the result would be raw performance very similar to Intel Ice Lake.
However, if you run workloads that use new features in Tiger Lake, such as: For example, with the newly supported AVX-512 instruction set, you can be sure that certain tasks will experience a speed boost. This instruction set was previously only available in the Intel Xeon and Skylake-X processors, so that we are breaking new ground with thin and light laptops. Intel's Tiger Lake demos at CES 2020 showed faster photo enhancement with improved resolution and detail thanks to machine learning capabilities. However, this clearly depends on software support and will continue to evolve over the course of 2021.
Tiger Lake significantly improves CPU performance over its predecessors. The more effective generation leap, however, is the Xe graphics of the 12th generation. Tiger Lake is the first generation of Intel CPUs to use Intel's new Xe graphics architecture, the grander version of which will power Intel's upcoming dedicated graphics cards.
Intel delivers huge performance improvements with Xe. However, this will depend on the processor model of your new laptop and the configuration set by the laptop manufacturer. The best scenario is an 11th Gen Core i7 with G7 graphics and 96 execution units, as it outperforms the best graphics in Intel's Ice Lake line of products by 50%. The integrated graphics are based on the system memory, so Intel has exceeded the limits with the memory support for Tiger Lake. The fastest Tiger Lake laptops use LPDDR4x-4266 memory which helps the CPU and also greatly improves the graphics.
Intel Iris Xe graphics are good enough for 1080p 60 fps gaming in esports and older AAA games. Nvidia discrete graphics like GeForce MX350 put up a reasonable fight, however, and we anticipate the new Nvidia GeForce MX450 will be a good pairing for Tiger Lake.
Intel graphics are generally considered to be weak and of little use to gamers. The new Xe graphics are certainly a step forward for gamers, but Intel paints a bigger picture with its CES claims of "most disruptive and advanced architecture yet". In September, we saw a number of reports of new features like Display State Buffer, which reportedly reduce load times and CPU usage, freeing up the CPU for other activities and better overall performance. We'll be curious to see how this feature works on Windows 10, but right now, Xe is delivering up to 50% more execution units that run at higher clock speeds and much faster memory. This is a formula for success.
Wi-Fi, A.I. and more
Two big improvements Intel wanted to talk to Tiger Lake about are the wireless network impact and A.I. Development. We'll have to wait and see how A.I. has advantages as it will clearly take time. While we may experience faster performance on certain workloads, we are not aware of any way to improve the A.I. Characteristics so that it may prove impossible to pinpoint the exact benefits of A.I. in Tiger Lake.
As far as Wi-Fi is concerned, Tiger Lake supports the 6th generation (802.11.ax) natively. This gives users access to high-speed data transfers, better performance on busy networks, improved latency, and reduced power consumption. This equates to better connection speeds and longer battery life for Tiger Lake devices, as we saw with Ice Lake. The "latest generation of display technology" is new, so you can expect both HDMI 2.1 and Thunderbolt 4 on premium Tiger Lake laptops.
Intel's Ice Lake CPUs contained the largest collection of hardware fixes to date for mainstream Intel processors, and we fully expected that Tiger Lake would improve this with additional security features. It is clear that Intel made changes, but the details have not been released. The real finding seems to be that Tiger Lake is more resilient than previous CPUs, and that disabling these changes actually affects performance. In other words, you don't have to choose between security or performance; you have to run Tiger Lake by default when it ships.