Your Folding PC Future Is Almost Here: Intel Launches Lakefield CPUs

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The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold is one of the upcoming models slated to use a Lakefield processor.

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Intel's [/news/intel-fights-back-with-power-sipping-lakefield-chip-for-weird-new-pcs/ Lakefield processor architecture] arrives Wednesday in new Core i5-L16G7 and i3-L13G4 chips that look to challenge [/news/qualcomm-aims-straight-at-intel-with-8cx-chip-its-first-7nm-cpu-for-pcs/ Qualcomm's processor platform] in the pursuit of full-day battery life for Windows [/topics/laptops/ laptops]. The new Cores come at a time when Apple is reportedly breaking away from Intel to [/news/apple-made-mac-chips-wont-be-ready-until-2021-report-says/ produce computer CPUs based around its own ARM-hybrid architecture], kin of the [/news/apples-iphone-11-a13-processor-boosts-chip-performance-20/ A13] and family used in its [/reviews/iphone-11-2019-battery-deep-fusion-review/ iPhones] and [/reviews/apple-ipad-pro-2020-12-9-inch-review/ iPads]. 
Like phone processors, these chips mix high- and low-power cores, routing tasks as necessary to provide more efficient use of the battery. Intel's hyped them for novel dual-screen and folding devices such as the [/products/lenovo-thinkpad-x1-fold/ Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold] (slated to ship in the second half of 2020) and [/news/samsungs-galaxy-book-s-will-arrive-in-february-after-long-delay/ Samsung Galaxy Book S] -- the latter uses a Qualcomm chip but an Intel model will be available this month -- predominantly because of their dual graphics pipelines, designed to drive multiple displays. 

Intel's Lakefield processor uses a more powerful processor core for performance-intensive tasks -- shown here in purple as a web page loads -- then shuffles the work to lower-power cores, shown here in yellow and orange. Once the work is done, the processor activity tapers down, with just little spurts of background activities using the low-power cores. (Slide from August 2019.)


The Lakefield platform also has a tiny package size, thanks to Intel's [/news/intel-3d-chip-stacking-could-get-you-to-buy-a-new-pc/ Foveros 3D stacking technology] and new package-on-package memory.  

But the 10nm L series seems like the spiritual successor to the 14nm Y chips, the current Intel choice for current small and light laptops such as the [/reviews/apple-macbook-air-2020-review/ MacBook Air] and [/reviews/hp-spectre-folio-review/ HP Spectre Folio]. The new i5 and i3 have five cores, with no logical processor support (so also five threads) and a power envelope of 7 watts. They differ by clock speed -- 1.4GHz base/3.0GHz single core turbo for the i5 and 800MHz base/2.8 single core turbo for the i3 -- and number of execution units in the graphics core (64 vs. 48). The Y series also has a 7-watt configuration, but the L processors have a much lower standby power draw, as little as 2.5mW. They're updated to the [/news/intels-10th-gen-laptop-chip-names-make-my-brain-hurt/ Ice Lake] [/news/faster-ice-lake-laptop-chip-gives-intel-some-of-its-mojo-back/ G graphics cores] as well, so expect to see improvement there. 

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We have no reason to believe at the moment that [/tags/lenovo/ Lenovo] or [/samsung/ Samsung] has put its dual-screen dreams on hold for 2020 like [/news/microsoft-surface-neo-reportedly-wont-release-in-2020/ Microsoft has for the Surface Neo]. But it will be far more useful if the new Intel chips make their way into more meat-and-potatoes laptops and Chromebooks.  

Previous efforts using Qualcomm's platform, including newsworthy models such as the [/news/microsoft-surface-pro-x-review-sleek-but-software-hasnt-caught-up-yet/ Microsoft Surface X], don't seem to have much traction because the [/reviews/lenovo-miix-630-preview/ performance and compatibility tradeoffs] haven't been worth it. And while Intel continues to tout single-core performance, it remains to be seen how the L series stacks up for mundane multicore-intensive work such as loading applications.

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