Hardware

Intel boosts 2-in-1 laptop speeds by up to 40% with new 8th-gen quad-core chips

The new 8xxx U-series processors are aimed at thin and light laptops, 2-in-1 machines, and mini-computers.

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Image: Intel

Intel is launching its eighth-generation laptop processors today, chips it claims are up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The new 8xxx U-series processors are low-power chips, aimed at thin and light laptops, 2-in-1 machines, and mini-computers.

For the first time Intel is bumping the number of cores in its U-Series Core i5 and i7 processors to four, while also boosting their maximum speed, up to 4.2GHz for the top-end i7-8650U processor.

In practical terms, these improvements should result in systems that are 40% faster when running office software and multi-tasking, compared with those running seventh-generation Intel processors, and 2x faster than five-year-old systems, according to Intel benchmarks.

New laptops featuring the chips will go on sale from September, with Intel expecting about 80 systems to be available by the holiday season, with standout features to include 4K panels, more Thunderbolt ports, and 2-in-1 form factors.

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Image: Intel

You can see the specs of the new 8xxx U processors above. Note that the operating frequencies shown in the table are turbo frequencies. Intel processors operate at a base frequency but can switch to a higher turbo frequency for limited periods, when under heavy load. The base operating speed of the processors is 1.9GHz for the i7-8650, 1.8GHz for the i7-8550, 1.7GHz for the i5-8350 and 1.6GHz for the i5-8250.

Other performance boosts over earlier systems, according to Intel benchmarks, include being 14.5x faster than five-year-old, Intel-based PCs when creating 4K video, and 48% faster than seventh-gen Intel processors when creating a slideshow.

This improvement in performance won't the reduce battery life of PCs powered by these new chips, according to Intel, which is claiming it will remain unchanged at about 10 hours of general use, as will the TDP of 15W.

SEE: Mobile device computing policy

These processors' integrated GPU is called Intel Graphics UHD 620, Intel's new name from its HD Graphics 620 GPU, and is the same as that found in the previous generation chips. It will support up to three external 4K displays at once, as well as running less demanding applications running on Windows Mixed Reality, Microsoft's combined virtual-reality and augmented-reality platform built into Windows.

Intel is pushing the idea that older laptops won't have the power to handle newer online technologies like 4K streaming.

"We've seen new usages start to emerge, like 4k content creation and consumption. VR is poised to go to the mainstream. There are a number of things that drive an immersive internet, like 360-degree video. The bottom line is, if you're on an older device, you're not going to get to experience any of that," said Karen Regis, mobile marketing manager at Intel.

The eighth-generation processors will enable 4K video streaming in a larger number of on-demand services than PCs driven by Intel's seventh-gen offerings, expanding the list from Netflix, Sony ULTRA, FunBox UHD, and iQIYI to also include Amazon Prime Video and Vudu.

Like their predecessors, the eighth-gen chips support Intel Optane accelerators, which boost the performance of spinning hard drives — reducing loading times for apps and fetching data more rapidly — with the first eighth-gen Optane laptops due next spring.

As with Intel seventh-gen processors, these latest chips include Intel Online Connect, which will enable users to pay for goods online and authenticate their identity using fingerprint readers built into the PC, with support due in services such as Gmail, Facebook and Dropbox.

Despite the speed bump, the chips are based on the Kaby Lake microarchitecture used in the seventh-generation Intel processors, and are manufactured using the same 14nm process. The performance improvements have been made possible by refining the processor design and by optimizing manufacturing procedures, said Regis.

Later processors in the eighth-generation series will be based on the Coffee Lake and Cannon Lake microarchitectures and will be manufactured using a 10nm process. The smaller the size of the manufacturing process, the larger the number of transistors that can be packed onto the same-sized chip, resulting in more efficient processors.

The U-series laptop processors will be followed by eighth-generation Intel chips aimed at desktop PCs, workstations and enthusiast notebooks from the fall.

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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