Intel 12th Gen CPUs for Slim and Light Laptops Announced

By using two different architectures for 'Performance' and 'Efficient' cores, Intel has managed to raise the total core count.

Intel 12th Gen CPUs for Slim and Light Laptops Announced
Highlights
  • New P-series and U-series CPUs will address mainstream laptop users
  • 9W U-series models will power new foldable and detachable 2-in-1s
  • Performance in multi-threaded workloads should benefit from more cores

Intel is expanding its 12th Gen ‘Alder Lake' CPU family with two new ranges, aimed at slim and light laptops for mainstream users. After launching the generation with high-end desktop CPUs last year and unveiling high-end gaming laptop CPUs at CES in January, Intel is now ready to address a much larger market segment. The ‘Alder Lake' generation combines heterogenous X86 P-cores and E-cores (for power and efficiency) to the mass market for laptops for the first time, along with Intel Xe graphics.

According to Intel, over 250 laptop models will launch in 2022 using these CPUs. These will include 2-in-1s, detachables, and devices with foldable screens such as the Asus ZenBook 17 Fold which was announced at CES. Performance is said to be greatly improved in workloads that benefit from high core and thread counts, such as 3D rendering, photo editing, and general productivity while multitasking.

The P-series is a new designation within Intel's usual hierarchy and will address the 28W “enthusiast thin-and-light” segment. Six models have been announced, across the Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 tiers. The rise in thread counts is said to deliver enthusiast-level performance and improved productivity. While the Core i3-1220P has two P-cores with Hyper-Threading and eight E-cores, the total count goes up to six P-cores with Hyper-Threading and eight E-cores on the top-end Core i7-1280P. Laptop OEMs will also be able to leverage up to four Thunderbolt ports and partially integrated Wi-Fi 6e.

The refreshed U-series will be available in two different package sizes to address the 9W segment for extremely portable devices and 15W TDP segment for everyday users. There are seven new models in each category, ranging from Celeron (one P-core, four E-cores, no Hyper-Threading) to Core i7 (two P-cores, eight E-cores, 12 total threads).

Intel says its latest CPUs use the same Thread Director feature as the previously released 12th Gen CPUs. This helps assign workloads dynamically between P-cores and E-cores based on power and performance requirements, and is integrated into Windows 11. Windows 10 is also compatible, but not as deeply optimised for the heterogenous core architecture.

DDR5 and DDR4 as well as LPDDR5 and LPDDR4X RAM will be supported for all CPUs except the 9W U-series models which only support LPDDR5 and LPDDR4X. The smaller package also means slightly more limited IO, such as supporting fewer USB ports, only two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and four PCIe 4.0 lanes for an SSD. The 15W U-series CPUs have the same IO as the 28W P-series, with support for four Thunderbolt 4 ports and eight PCIe 4.0 lanes.

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Jamshed Avari
Jamshed Avari has been working in tech journalism as a writer, editor and reviewer for over 13 years. He has reviewed hundreds of products ranging from smartphones and tablets to PC components and accessories, and has also written guides, feature articles, news and analyses. Going beyond simple ratings and specifications, he digs deep into how emerging products and services affect actual users, and what marks they leave on our cultural landscape. He's happiest when something new comes along ...More
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