Intel's slow trickle of information on its Tiger Lake processors recently turned into a veritable flood as the company shared information about its first salvo of 10nm SuperFin chips, but one detail was missing: Any official disclosures of chips with more than four cores. That changed in a decidedly low-key way, as a blog post from Intel fellow Boyd Phelps on Medium reveals that the company will introduce eight-core models soon, saying:
"We also added a 3MB non-inclusive last-level-cache (LLC) per core slice. A single core workload has access to 12MB of LLC in the 4-core die or up to 24MB in the 8-core die configuration (more detail on 8-core products at a later date)."
Intel claims that it's four-core Tiger Lake models, by virtue of their 10nm SuperFin Process, Willow Cove Cores, and Iris XE graphics, can already beat AMD's eight-core Renoir chips in some performance benchmarks. If Intel's performance projections for its quad-core models are accurate, the eight-core Tiger Lake models could prove to be exceedingly competitive against AMD's existing Ryzen Mobile 'Renoir' lineup, possibly even wresting away the lead in threaded applications. We've yet to see independent third-party verification of the quad-core Tiger Lake chips in reviews, but AMD's upcoming Zen 3 "Cezanne" APUs are now extremely important as AMD looks to keep its performance advantage in the laptop market despite the looming eight-core Tiger Lake models.
The current dual- and quad-core Tiger Lake chips address only the 7 to 28W segment, while larger eight-core Tiger Lake-H processors would obviously tackle the upper echelons of the performance market, possibly stretching up to 45W models (~65W peak) for H-series Core i9 and i7 models.
We won't go into Tiger Lake's full technical details, we have all of those resources in one place here, but Intel's plans for eight-core Tiger Lake models aren't entirely surprising. Intel's current 10th-gen lineup includes 10nm Ice Lake processors that address the iGPU gaming market with up to four cores, while the 14nm Comet Lake processors slot in for high-performance productivity workloads. However, Intel told us during its Tiger Lake briefings that all of its future laptop chips will come with the 10nm SuperFin (or better) process, meaning the company won't have a split product stack for its 11th-gen lineup.
Much of Intel's previous limitations on its Ice Lake models stemmed from the low clock frequencies and poor yields, both of which conspired to limit performance and core counts - Intel's best 10nm efforts thus far have resulted in quad-core chips for laptops. Intel's new 10nm SuperFin process has corrected the clock speed issues, we see up to a 700 MHz increase to base and boost frequencies, and the emergence of eight core models imply that defect rates are lower, and thus yields are up, allowing Intel to punch out 10nm laptop chips with up to eight cores.
Intel has no plans to bring Tiger Lake to its lineup of desktop chips, but we have already seen the first new Tiger Lake NUCs emerge from ASRock. Naturally, eight-core Tiger Lake models will also work their way into the NUC lineups. Given their pairing with the Xe graphics engine, they could prove to pack a decent performance punch for compact desktop PCs.