Meet the Intel Core Ultra processor lineup, with built-in NPUs for AI, and Arc graphics

Intel
(Image credit: Intel)

Intel today launched its Core Ultra (née Meteor Lake) line of mobile processors, a mix of H-series and U-series parts, and the beginning of what the company is referring to as the "AI PC." The majority are launching in notebooks today, according to the company, while a few models are expected to launch in the first quarter of 2024.

The chips are Intel's first consumer processors running on its Intel 4 node, using the company's Foveros 3D hybrid architecture. They will also be the first line of Intel processors using neural processing units, or NPUs. The company suggests that the NPU (Apple, Qualcomm, and AMD each have their own versions) will bring about the age of the "AI PC." We already have a detailed look at the Meteor Lake architecture, which you can read here. 

(Image credit: Intel)

To start, there are four H-series chips (a pair of Core Ultra 7 processors and two Core Ultra 5 chips) and another four U-series processors (another two Ultra 7 and Ultra 5's). An H-series Ultra 9 is set for 2024, as are two lower-power U-series (one Ultra 5 and one Ultra 7) processors. Here's the stack: 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Intel Core Ultra 9 185H*Intel Core Ultra 7 165HIntel Core Ultra 7 155HIntel Core Ultra 5 135HIntel Core Ultra 5 125HIntel Core Ultra 7 165UIntel Core Ultra 7 164U*Intel Core Ultra 7 155UIntel Core Ultra 5 135UIntel Core Ultra 5 134U*Intel Core Ultra 5 125U
Cores/Threads16/2216/2216/2214/1814/1812/1412/1412/1412/1412/1412/14
P-Cores66644222222
E-Cores8 (2 LP)8 (2 LP)8 (2 LP)8 (2 LP)7 (2 LP)8 (2 LP)8 (2 LP)8 (2 LP)8 (2 LP)8 (2 LP)8 (2 LP)
Smart Cache (LLC)24M24M24M18M18M12M12M12M12M12M12M
Max turbo frequency (GHz, P-cores/E-cores)5.1 / 3.85.0 / 3.84.8/3.84.6/3.64.5 / 3.64.9 / 3.84.8 / 3.84.8/3.84.4 / 3.64.4/3.64.3/3.5
Integrated GPUIntel Arc GPU, 2.35 GHz Max, 8 Xe coresIntel Arc GPU, 2.3 GHz Max, 8 Xe coresIntel Arc GPU, 2.25 GHz Max, 8 Xe coresIntel Arc GPU, 2.2 GHz Max, 7 Xe coresIntel Arc GPU, 2.2 GHz Max, 7 Xe coresIntel Graphics, 2 GHz Max, 4 Xe coresIntel Graphics, 1.8 GHz Max, 4 Xe coresIntel Graphics 1.95 GHz Max, 4 Xe CoresIntel Graphics, 1.9 GHz Max, 4 Xe CoresIntel Graphics, 1.75 GHz Max, 4 Xe CoresIntel Graphics, 1.85 GHz Max, 4 Xe Cores
Neural ProcessorIntel AI Boost, 2x Gen 3Intel AI Boost, 2x Gen 3Intel AI Boost, 2x Gen 3Intel AI Boost, 2x Gen 3Intel AI Boost, 2x Gen 3Intel AI Boost, 2x Gen 3Intel AI Boost, 2x Gen 3Intel AI Boost, 2x Gen 3Intel AI Boost, 2x Gen 3Intel AI Boost, 2x Gen 3Intel AI Boost, 2x Gen 3
Max Memory SpeedDDR5-5600, LPDDR/x-7467DDR5-5600, LPDDR/x-7467DDR5-5600, LPDDR/x-7467DDR5-5600, LPDDR/x-7467DDR5-5600, LPDDR/x-7467DDR5-5600, LPDDR/x-7467LPDDR5/x-6400DDR5-5600, LPDDR/x-7467DDR5-5600, LPDDR/x-7467LPDDR5/x-6400DDR5-5600, LPDDR/x-7467
Max Memory Capacity64GB (LP5)/96GB (DDR5)64GB (LP5)/96GB (DDR5)64GB (LP5)/96GB (DDR5)64GB (LP5)/96GB (DDR5)64GB (LP5)/96GB (DDR5)64GB (LP5)/96GB (DDR5)64GB (LP5)64GB (LP5)/96GB (DDR5)64GB (LP5)/96GB (DDR5)64GB (LP5)64GB (LP5)/96GB (DDR5)
Base power (W)45W28W28W28W28W15W9W15W15W9W15W
Turbo power (W)115W64W, 115W64W, 115W64W, 115W64W, 115W57W30W57W57W30W57W

*Expected Q1 2024

The P-series lineup is gone with Intel Core Ultra, having been merged with the H-series to cover the middle tier and high-end offerings. The U-series remains as the lower performance but also lower power ultraportable option.

The top chip, the Intel Core Ultra 9 185H, will go up to a 5.1-GHz max turbo. The entire collection has the same listed NPU. Intel is suggesting that the Core Ultra's Arc-branded GPUs will be a huge step over previous iGPUs, but that's limited to certain H-series processors.

(Image credit: Intel)

Additionally, Intel claims that the new processors will be extremely efficient, adding substantial battery life thanks to both the node shrink and the use of the NPU. Intel is claiming that the Ultra 7 165H, with the PL1 set to 28W, uses 25% less power than the

Core i7-1370P while streaming Netflix video. The Raptor Lake chip uses performance and efficiency cores, while Intel states that the new Core Ultra uses just the low-power efficiency cores. (Notably, there are no power comparisons between higher-end Ultra H series chips and 13th Gen H-series processors.)

(Image credit: Intel)

In comparison to AMD, Intel says it uses "up to 79% lower power than AMD at the same 28W envelope for ultrathin notebooks." Intel is claiming its biggest win is on an idle Windows desktop (79% less power), with substantially less power at Netflix streaming (48% less) and local 4K video playback (44% off). Web browsing and Microsoft Teams, however, net just a 7% improvement. We'll have to see how these Meteor Lake laptops do on our own battery testing.

Intel is using Redwood Cove P-cores and Crestmont E-cores. When comparing an Ultra 7 165H to a last-gen Core i7-1370P, an AMD Ryzen 7 7840U, and a Qualcomm 8cx Gen 3, Intel claimed an 11% advantage over the Ryzen processor on a test based on SPECrate*2017_int_base (n-copy) and a 9% gain over the 1370P. The fine print reads that an Apple M3 was also tested, but the results curiously aren't listed on all of Intel's slides.

But things don't look as good on single-threaded performance. While the Ultra 7 165H allegedly beats the Ryzen 7 7840U by 12%, the last-gen 1370P beat the same AMD chip by 21%. It's still progress (by Intel's own measurements, anyway — we haven't gotten to run our own tests yet), but some single-threaded workloads might be better on those older chips. Again, Apple's M3 was tested, but the results weren't mentioned.

 Intel also claimed victories using the Ultra 7 155H over the Ryzen and 1360P (a notable switch from the 1470P) in multimedia performance, including UL Procyon, PugetBench for Premiere Pro, and PugetBench for LightRoom.

(Image credit: Intel)

For graphics, Intel is touting its new Arc GPU. We have an existing writeup about the architecture from earlier this year. The Arc name will only be used by H-series Intel Core Ultra processors with at least 16GB of dual-channel RAM. Otherwise, you get Intel graphics. Intel is touting DX12 Ultimate support, Xe SuperSampling, and a DP4A engine for INT8 operations. Intel is pushing that DP4a support as a "sustained AI accelerator." 

For gaming, Intel claims that Meteor Lake (specifically, the Core Ultra 7 165H) is up to twice as fast as a 13th Gen Core i7-1370P. Again, this would be a good place to see another, higher-end 13th Gen chip pulled out, so we could see H-series vs. H-series comparisons.

And then there's the NPU, which Intel claims is one of three "AI engines" in the processor (the other being the GPU for high-throughput and the CPU). The Core i7-165H can deliver up to 34 TeraOPS across the CPU, GPU, and NPU combined, but Intel hasn't broken out TOPS across each individually.

One question is how useful the AI features will be, and to whom. Intel says it has over 100 software vendors partnered to come up with over 300 “features,” and that its support for OpenVINO should allow for great development support.

For AI performance, Intel matched its Ultra 7 165H up against a Core i7-1370P
And Ryzen 7 7840U with Ryzen AI, with the new chip coming easily in first across a series of benchmarks. It's interesting to see what Intel has chosen, as these are early days for these kinds of features. Overall, Intel says it offers 1.7 times more generative AI performance over its last-gen P -series chip, uses 38% less power in Zoom calls due to NPU offloading, and offers 2.5x Int8 power efficiency in UL Procyon Ai, also due to NPU offload. Additionally, Intel says it has Meta's LLama2-7B running offline using Core Ultra and Superhuman.

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel says these laptops should be available in stores today, with more coming in 2024. This first batch includes PCs from MSI, Asus, Acer, Lenovo, and others. We'll see soon how much the so-called AI PC, and Meteor Lake, have to offer.

(Image credit: Intel)

Additionally, Intel is updating its Evo specification, including a new "Intel Evo Edition" badge that goes on laptops that meet the spec. Targets include "ten or more hours of real-world battery" with a full HD display (or four hours or more battery life after a 30-minute charge, again limited to laptops with full HD screens); and turning on and authentication in less than 1.5 seconds (though in the fine print, this doesn't include PCs with discrete GPUs). So while there are bigger targets, there are also more loopholes.

Intel is also pushing at least Wi-Fi 6E support in Evo devices, as well as better, high-quality webcams based on the VCX benchmark usually reserved for smartphones (the recent iPhone 15 Pro Max, for instance, earned a 46 on its selfie cam. Intel is requiring a score of 32 or better.) Evo will also require camera status lights, enhanced video effects using Microsoft Studio Effects, and use of the NPU for audio and video features.

Expect much more to come about Core Ultra soon. We expect to see many more NPU-equipped laptops early next year at CES 2024. In the meantime, you can view Intel Core Ultra deck here:

Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Threads @FreedmanAE and Mastodon @FreedmanAE.mastodon.social.

  • Marlin1975
    And they use as much power as some desktop chips.

    Is that the only way intel can show gains now is just ramp up the power?
    Also no one is doing AI work on a laptop chip. What a dud
    Reply
  • Lucky_SLS
    "But things don't look as good on single-threaded performance. While the Ultra 7 165H allegedly beats the Ryzen 7 7840U by 12%, the last-gen 1370P beat the same AMD chip by 21%"

    Redcove P cores?????
    Reply
  • NeoMorpheus
    Meteor Lake has landed, ushering in the era of the AI PC

    And AMD Ryzen 7040 Series, otherwise known as the Phoenix APU, are figments of our imagination hence doesnt exist.....

    Between beauties like that title or the days when Ngreedia marketing dept dictates whats pasted in the front page, we are truly unbiased informed, I guess....
    Reply
  • JamesJones44
    Marlin1975 said:
    And they use as much power as some desktop chips.

    Is that the only way intel can show gains now is just ramp up the power?
    Also no one is doing AI work on a laptop chip. What a dud
    If this slide is to be believed these don't use as much power as a desktop CPU. The question is under what conditions is the slide true.

    https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/K6bnHhvovdUqWJmhXfHM83-970-80.jpg.webp
    Reply
  • Roland Of Gilead
    Intel Core Ultra 5 125H has 7 E-cores. Seems a bit of an odd number (pardon the pun). Typo?
    Reply
  • atomicWAR
    Little underwhelming with 6P cores but it will be nice to see Intel switch to chiplet...I mean 'tile' designs. I'll be curious how these perform!
    Reply
  • TCA_ChinChin
    atomicWAR said:
    Little underwhelming with 6P cores but it will be nice to see Intel switch to chiplet...I mean 'tile' designs. I'll be curious how these perform!
    Initial impressions seem pretty good, with the new chips being on par or slightly better than current AMD/Apple offerings in terms of CPU, GPU, performance and efficiency. Competition in the laptop segment seems better products for all.
    Reply
  • Blastomonas
    Hasn't AMD already beaten them to it? Better late than never i suppose.
    Reply
  • Roland Of Gilead
    I don't think a turbo power of 115w in a laptop is very efficient. But, hey, times are changing.
    Reply
  • Giroro
    So we now have 3 types of Normal/Smaller/Smallest cores, plus a huge emphasis on a useless NPU which realistically will never get software support for any of the kinds of workloads you would ever want to run on a laptop.
    Meanwhile I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out what in the world they are trying to say or not-say with claims like "up to 79% lower power than AMD at the same 28W ..."

    I for one am glad that these CPUs will be exclusive to Windows 11 machines, where they can safely be ignored for the foreseeable future. Because otherwise these SKUs would be an absolute nightmare to memorize and try to talk about.

    The new "Ultra" brand is supposed to be Intel's attempt to make their marketing less confusing?
    It took me literal weeks of having to trail my father around Best Buy and Costco, fighting against him getting confused and bogged down by specs he didn't need to worry about, just to figure out what size of screen and style of keyboard he wanted so I could go find him a laptop with the specs he needed for real.
    You aren't helping us buy laptops for our families, INTEL.
    Reply