Intel 10nm Ice Lake Architecture And Project Athena Laptops To Drive Exciting New Mobile PC Experiences

Intel Ice Lake - Machine Learning, Gen 11 Graphics, WiFi 6, 14nm PCH

Intel Dynamic Tuning 2.0 with Machine Learning is a new feature arriving with Ice Lake. As its name suggest, IDT 2.0 with ML predicts workloads and dynamically maximizes performance by more intelligently using the available power and thermal budget.

ice lake dynamic tuning

With Intel Dynamic Tuning 2.0 with Machine Learning, instead of simply boosting to the highest level, quickly consuming all of the available power budget, and then having performance drop off sharply, max turbo is achieved and then clocks and power are managed more granularly, based on the actual workload, to maintain higher boost states for a longer duration.

Intel Dynamic Tuning 2.0 with Machine Learning leverages hardware and sensors in Ice Lake, but it still requires an OS level interaction, and needs proper software support to function optimally. Currently, this feature is supported in Windows and Linux.

ice lake perf1

While we’re on the subject of performance, we should also mention that the Sunny Cove microarchitecture offers significantly better IPC than previous-generation Intel processors. In comparison to Skylake, IPC has improved by an average of about 18%. Some workloads will show smaller improvements, while others – specifically those that can leverage DL Boost – may show increases approaching 40%.

Intel Gen 11 Graphics Performance Expectations

ice lake perf 2

Using a 15W processor, and looking all the way back to Broadwell, Ice Lake shows a massive improvement in single-thread performance, according to Intel. The uplift in single-thread performance approaches 48% versus Broadwell. In comparison to newer architectures, Ice Lake’s single-thread performance advantage drops off in a somewhat consistent cadence, but it should offer measurably more performance over previous-gen offerings nonetheless.

gen11 graphis perf

Ice Lake offers more than enhanced CPU core performance, however. The new Gen11 graphics engine is much more powerful and capable too. According to Intel, an Ice Lake-based 10th Gen Core processor with Iris Graphics will be capable of smooth gaming at 1080p with a variety of game titles. CS:GO shows a large about 1.8x performance improvement over Whisky Lake, for example. Where Whisky Lake was able to put up 43FPS at 1080p in CS:GO, Ice Lake was able to maintain greater than 60FPS. The average gaming performance improvement over Intel's previous generation will be 1.5x – 1.6x, depending on the game’s configuration.

In addition to the increased performance, Intel is also making some updates on the software front for Gen11 graphics. The Intel Graphics Command Center gets a new Power page, there will be additional skins added, and 1-click optimization will be available for 44 games, with support for more coming regularly.

Integrated Thunderbolt 3

Previous-generation Intel processor platforms required a discrete ASIC (Titan Ridge), along with some additional power delivery controllers, to enable Thunderbolt 3. With Ice Lake though, Intel has integrated TB3 onto the SoC, which will simplify the implementation for Intel’s system partners, while also offering better performance.

tb3 1

The block diagram above illustrates how Thunderbolt 3 is implemented today with the discrete Titan Ridge chip. Titan Ridge connects to the CPU and PCH, then out to a pair of PD controllers, and the necessary Type-C ports. The complexity in the implantation and subsequent board routing typically means that TB3 ports reside on only a single side of most current-gen systems.

Thunderbolt 3 Implementation In Intel Ice Lake
Thunderbolt 3 Implementation In Ice Lake

With Thunderbolt 3 integrated into the Ice Lake SoC, however, the Titan Ridge chip is no longer needed. A couple of basic retimers will have to be laid down on the board, but overall the routing and power delivery is simplified, and as a result, we’ll likely see future systems with Thunderbolt 3 ports available on both sides. This new implementation allows for more TB3 ports per square millimeter of board area, but not necessarily more ports in aggregate. Ice Lake's TB3 integration also yields higher performance and lower latency, due to the tighter coupling on the SoC.

We should also mention that Ice Lake’s TB3 setup will likely be USB 4 compliant, but since Intel doesn’t have the necessary items / devices to properly qualify and test for USB 4 compliance, they are not making any specific claims just yet.

Ice Lake Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax Wireless Networking

Upcoming Ice Lake-based systems will feature 802.11ax wireless networking, also known as Wi-Fi 6. Keep in mind, however, that not all Wi-Fi 6 technology is created equal. There is a minimum spec, but Intel plans to exceed the minimum spec and offer additional features, like support for 160MHz channels for greater than gigabit wireless networking speeds (Gig+) and OBSS (Overlapping Basic Service Sets), for network noise filtering.

wifi 6 2

Wi-Fi 6 offers a number of key benefits over 802.11ac (and previous-gen Wi-Fi standards) that result in reduced latency, as well as increased throughput and capacity. For example, Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) shares and splits up the signal to simultaneously support multiple devices in addition to 1024 QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation), versus 256 QAM, to increase data rates.

wifi 6 3

Intel's Ice Lake platform integrated Wi-Fi 6 MAC allows for smaller die and packages for the modular controllers. Intel will have a 2230 socket compatible add-in device available, along with a much smaller 1216 design that can be soldered down onto a system's motherboard. Both of the actual devices are pictured below.

wifi 6 modiles

In addition to Wi-Fi 6, we should also mention that Intel has a discrete Wi-Fi 6 chipset (the Intel Home Wi-Fi Chipset WAV600) that will be used in an array of routers, access points, and networking devices. The chipset will be used in dual-band 4-stream (2+2) Wi-Fi 6 (Gig+) routers and gateways and offers 160MHz support.

A New 14nm Platform Controller Hub

ice lake new pch

Arriving alongside Ice Lake is a new Platform Controller Hub. The new PCH is manufactured using 14nm process technology and features an integrated Wi-Fi 6 MAC, a programmable quad-core Audio DSP, fully integrated voltage regulators, and an array of I/O, including 6 x USB 3.1 ports (or 10 x USB 2 ports), 16 Gen 3 PCIe lanes, 3 x SATA 6Gbps ports, and eMMC 5.1.

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