Intel is no longer inside the MacBook Air. But it has an answer.
Just to revisit: an Intel processor is no longer an option for the MacBook Air because the chipmaker lost the performance-per-watt battle with Apple’s internal silicon, the M1 — a higher-performance variant of the A14 silicon used in the iPhone 12 and newest iPad Air.
A couple of the reasons, among others, Apple replaced Intel: excessive thermal throttling, which reduces performance, and excessive heat. (I can attest to both as an owner of many MacBook Airs over the years.)
Intel’s apparent* answer: 14-core (20-thread) Alder Lake, as spotted on Geekbench (via Notebookcheck). And updated Xe graphics.
Alder Lake is reportedly a hybrid CPU architecture using a combination of high-power Golden Cove cores and energy-efficient Gracemont (aka Atom) cores. The high power cores support multithreading, the energy-efficient cores don’t, according to reports.
Alder Lake would be a major departure from any mainstream Intel mobile processor to date.
Intel future Alder Lake-P adds up to:
- 6 Golden Cove cores (with 12 threads)
- 8 Gracemont cores
- 4 Firestorm (high-performance) cores
- 4 Icestorm (energy-efficient) cores
And remember that the M1 is not just a CPU but also contains the GPU and a neural engine for AI tasks.
Intel says its current 11th gen “Tiger Lake” gets a bad rap
Until Alder Lake arrives, there’s Intel’s latest 11 Gen Intel processors used in many of the newest Windows laptops hitting the market today.
In a call I had with Intel on Friday, it produced a series of slides showing mostly, but not exclusively, the advantages of using its 11 gen processors vs the M1, including things like an “extremely limited library of Steam game titles.”
Intel also tried to correct (below) some impressions that systems with Intel’s 11th Gen processors are woefully behind the M1 in battery rundown times.
Actually, I can attest to this also. I am using an M1 MacBook Pro and a stable of laptops using the 11th Gen processor.
While the MBP M1 has better battery life than, for instance, the newest Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre x360 14, it’s not as dramatic as you might think.
I can usually squeeze out between one and two more hours (depending on what I’m doing) from the M1 MacBook Pro compared to the Spectre x360 14, for instance. Significant but not mind blowing. And something Intel could possibly address with Alder Lake.
*Alder Lake details have not been confirmed by Intel so any discussion must be designated as rumor. I asked Intel to comment on the upcoming chip but the spokesperson would not elaborate.