Hours before announcing the 10th generation Comet Lake processors, Intel revealed more details of the Lakefield, a tiny processor based on 3D manufacturing technology that could pave the way for a new and more sophisticated category of portable computers.
The idea here is to build a chip as or more compact than those that equip smartphones. Not that Intel is planning to return to that segment. In fact, the project could help the company face a potential threat: Qualcomm’s possible escalation in the notebook market.
Lakefield is based on a technology that Intel has dubbed Foveros. With it, the company is able to “stack” different parts of the chip in layers instead of leaving them side by side.
We are talking about the 3D manufacturing technology mentioned at the beginning of the text. Thanks to it, chips with different combinations of CPUs, GPUs, artificial intelligence processors and other components can be developed for specific activities.
In the case of Lakefield, Foveros technology allows the chip to be only 12 × 12 mm in size, that is, it comes with an area of 144 mm². This is much more than the 83 mm² of Apple’s A12 Bionic processor. On the other hand, these dimensions are small enough to allow the chip to be installed on very compact boards. In addition, Lakefield features integrated memory.
Two main layers make up the chip. The bottom one contains southbridge, that is, it mainly houses input and output (I / O) controllers. The top one, on the other hand, has a 10-nanometer CPU composed of a high-performance Sunny Cove core and four smaller cores based on the Atom platform that respond to undemanding tasks. Above, there are also layers for RAM.
Intel classifies this approach as a hybrid x86 architecture. To some extent, it resembles the big.LITTLE technology available for ARM chips, which combines low and high performance cores to reduce processor power consumption.
This detail calls attention to the most notable benefit that Lakefield should bring: battery life that can provide almost a full day of uninterrupted use of the laptop.
Here is one of the reasons why Intel technology is considered to be a response to Qualcomm: it has been laying the groundwork for bringing Snapdragon chips to laptops that may have a battery life of about 25 hours.
It is too early to know whether Lakefield will live up to expectations or whether we will even see a war between Intel and Qualcomm. But one thing seems certain: Intel has different technologies at its disposal to combine components, so the project may represent the first step for the company to develop chips for the most diverse purposes.
For now, Intel only has Lakefield prototypes, but the development of the project is at an advanced stage. The expectation is that the first “final” units will start to leave the production line by the end of 2019.