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Intel’s Core Ultra CPUs are here — and they all come with silicon dedicated to AI

Intel’s Core Ultra CPUs are here — and they all come with silicon dedicated to AI

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Lenovo, MSI, Acer, and Asus are all launching new laptops with Intel’s latest Core Ultra processors.

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A graphic showing Intel’s Core Ultra chip
Image: Intel

Intel is taking the wraps off its next generation of CPUs. During its AI Everywhere event on Thursday, Intel revealed all the details on the Core Ultra — no longer Core “i” — mobile processors that will be part of its Meteor Lake lineup, promising better power efficiency and performance thanks to a new setup that splits tasks across different chiplets.

Intel says its Core Ultra 7 165H chip offers an 11 percent improvement in multi-threading performance when compared to competing laptop processors, like the AMD Ryzen 7 7840U, Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, and Apple’s in-house M3 chip. It also offers a 25 percent reduction in power consumption when compared to the previous Intel Core i7-1370P and has up to 79 percent lower power than AMD’s Ryzen 7 7840U “at the same 28W envelope for ultrathin notebooks.”

All of Intel’s new CPUs will also come with an NPU, or a neural processing unit, offering “low-power AI acceleration and CPU/GPU off-load” capable of performing AI-powered tasks, like background blur, eye tracking, and picture framing. The integration is supposed to make it more efficient to run AI models like Stable Diffusion when compared to Intel’s previous generation of chips.

Image: Intel

Although Intel mainly highlighted the strengths of its Core Ultra 7 165H chip, the flagship Intel Core Ultra 9 185H is the leader of the pack, with 16 cores and 22 threads. Of those 16 cores, it has six performance (P) cores and eight efficient (E) cores.

There are also two low-power (LP-E) cores that live on the chip’s “low power island,” a new section that handles less demanding workloads for increased efficiency. The Core Ultra 9 185H has an up to 5.1GHz boost clock as well as a built-in Arc GPU with eight Xe cores running at up to 2.35GHz. The new Xe LPG architecture allows for increased performance at a lower minimum voltage and also adds support for Intel’s XeSS upscaling technology and ray tracing.

The addition of an NPU comes just months after Microsoft shipped the first Intel NPU in a Windows laptop as part of the Surface Laptop Studio 2. The software maker didn’t explain the ways this NPU could be leveraged in Windows beyond the usual Windows Studio effects, but Intel is clearly laying the chip groundwork here for larger AI features that will likely arrive in the next version of Windows.

Image: Intel

While Intel’s Core Ultra 9 185H processor won’t be available until 2024, the majority of its other Meteor Lake chips are launching today. That includes Intel’s second-most powerful chip, the Core Ultra 7 165H, featuring 16 cores and 22 threads and an up to 5.0GHz boost clock.

There are also the Core Ultra 7 165U, Core Ultra 5 135H, Core Ultra 5 135U, and several other options that aren’t quite as powerful as Intel’s flagship. It’s worth noting that only Intel’s H-series chips come with a built-in Arc GPU, as the company’s U-series CPUs just offer integrated Intel Graphics. You can check out all of the chips and their full list of specs in the above chart.

Image: Intel

A bunch of new laptops have already adopted the new Intel Core Ultra chip. For starters, MSI is launching the high-end Prestige 16 AI Studio laptop, which weighs three-and-a-half pounds but comes with some pretty impressive specs, including up to Intel’s Core Ultra 9 185H processor and Nvidia’s 4070 laptop GPU. There’s a 13-inch Prestige AI Evo model that comes with up to the Intel Core Ultra 7 155H processor. MSI’s 16-inch Prestige AI Studio laptop starts at $1,899, while the Prestige 13 AI Evo costs $1,049 and up.

Asus is also giving its laptops an Intel Core Ultra-powered spec bump, too. It’s launching a lightweight Zenbook 14 OLED laptop featuring up to an Intel Core Ultra 7 chip with Intel Arc graphics. The laptop starts at $1,299.99, with “additional configurations” — likely including Intel’s Core Ultra 9 chip — arriving in early 2024. Samsung launched a refreshed Galaxy Book4 lineup also featuring options with Intel’s flagship chip.

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Photo by Antonio G. Di Benedetto / The Verge

Meanwhile, Lenovo has revealed a trio of laptops equipped with the new chip, including the 12th-gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon, the 9th-gen ThinkPad X1 2-in-1, and the IdeaPad Pro 5i. These three models are pretty pricey, with the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon starting at $2,989 in “limited configurations” and the Lenovo IdeaPad Pro 5i starting at $1,149.99. The ThinkPad X1 2-in-1 starts at $2,639, with availability starting in March 2024.

As if all of that wasn’t enough to process, Acer is also jumping on the Intel Core Ultra bandwagon with the new Swift Go 14 and the gaming-focused Predator Triton Neo 16. The Swift Go 14 laptop comes with up to an Intel Core Ultra 7 155H, while offering up to 12.5 hours of battery life and up to 32GB of LPDDR5X RAM for a starting price of $999.99. Meanwhile, the Predator Triton Neo 16 comes out in March 2024 and features up to an Intel Core Ultra 9 185H chip as well as up to an Nvidia RTX 4070 GPU. The Predator Triton Neo 16 starts at $1,499.99.

While there’s clearly no shortage of laptops taking up Intel’s revamped chips, you may want to wait until Intel releases its Core Ultra 9 next year to get top-of-the-line models.

Update December 14th, 2:11PM ET: Added information on Samsung’s Galaxy Book4.