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[Computex 2024] Intel Lunar Lake Is Coming To Premium Laptops This Year
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[Computex 2024] Intel Lunar Lake Is Coming To Premium Laptops This Year

by Low Boon ShenJune 4, 2024
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In the annual Intel Technology Tour event this year – set in Taiwan in the week before Computex – Intel is providing deep dives for the upcoming Lunar Lake architecture set to power the next generation of laptops coming later this year. All components of the chip has seen big upgrades, including CPU, GPU, and NPU; the chip also promises to deliver big on power efficiency to compete against Arm-powered laptops.

Intel Lunar Lake: Deep Dive

There’s a huge amount of information to take in for Lunar Lake – the two-day event has delivered lots of technical deep dives on the inner workings of the chip. We’ll try to summarize some parts because it can get very long, but here’s what you can expect from the next wave of Intel-powered laptops.

[Computex 2024] Intel Lunar Lake Is Coming To Premium Laptops This Year 27

[Computex 2024] Intel Lunar Lake Is Coming To Premium Laptops This Year 28

The silicon is now split into two ‘Tiles’ – the Compute Tile, and the Platform Controller Tile. There’s also a “filler tile” occupying the lower-left corner of the silicon, which Intel says is a structural part. Power delivery is done via PMICs which provides more power rails and greater control over voltage – another way of Lunar Lake saving power consumption is by including an 8MB “side cache”, which allows certain components of the chip to grab the data from the cache directly without accessing RAM, thus saving power.

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The biggest change of the chip from the outside is how the chip is designed in conjunction with the LPDDR5X memory – all Lunar Lake chips will now come with two DRAM packages attached on the same package as the chip, which limits the RAM options to 16GB and 32GB only. OEMs will not be able to make changes on the memory configurations, but this does save on power (up to 40% on PHY layer) and motherboard area (up to 250mm² less space used). This should help with battery life in both ways: less power consumption, and bigger batteries.

CPU: Lion Cove & Skymont

The cores sitting within the Lunar Lake are all-new, now called Lion Cove (P-cores) and Skymont (E-cores). These core clusters will be managed by the updated Thread Director feature using a new logic that prioritizes power efficiency by assigning E-cores first for any workload, unless maximum performance is demanded. Gone is the LPE-cores – as the new E-core design features significantly wider operating window that negates the use of low power E-cores in the chip.

[Computex 2024] Intel Lunar Lake Is Coming To Premium Laptops This Year 30

[Computex 2024] Intel Lunar Lake Is Coming To Premium Laptops This Year 31

Intel has provided a few numbers for the new architecture: the Lion Cove P-core gets a 14% IPC improvement over Redwood Cove found in Meteor Lake, while the E-cores is quoted to have big IPC uplifts, with 38% on integer and a huge 68% on floating point workloads, compared to Meteor Lake’s LP E-cores. This should translate to LNL at least capable of maintaining multi-core performance despite the total core count deficit from the previous generation – Lunar Lake maxes out at 4P+4E cores, whereas the top Meteor Lake model features 6P+8E+2LPE core configuration.

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Combine the two core clusters together and you have a very efficient chip – the E-cores work best at low power levels where it can provide up to 80% perf/watt over P-cores at the same power draw. If the workload exceeds E-cores’ power curve, the P-cores can step in to provide another 50% worth of performance. On top of that, the cores now feature finer clock control at 16.67Mhz increments to squeeze out just a tiny bit more performance out of the silicon.

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The updated Intel Thread Director has a new scheduling logic that uses one E-core first, before expanding to other E-cores if needed for multi-core workloads. If the workload needs more than that, the workload gets moved to P-cores to deliver peak performance – this translates to 35% power reduction in Microsoft Teams, Intel says.

The new implementation also features “OS containment zones”, which restricts a specific workload to one core cluster depending on the demand. Additionally, OEMs can adjust the way these core clusters behave by designing power profiles around them (i.e. Performance mode prioritize P-cores, while Silent mode puts workloads in E-cores more).

GPU: Xe2 “Battlemage”, Display Enhancements

[Computex 2024] Intel Lunar Lake Is Coming To Premium Laptops This Year 34

Meteor Lake was split into two distinct lineups: the H-series and the U-series. These two variants have vastly different levels of GPU performance on tap, but Lunar Lake’s Xe2 GPU will cover the entire power spectrum of both Meteor Lake SKUs, with a total GPU performance uplift claimed to be 1.5x over Alchemist-based predecessor. (Side note: Intel has confirmed that Battlemage desktop GPUs are coming later this year.)

The Xe2 comes with a new display engine that incorporates embedded DisplayPort 1.5 (eDP 1.5), and a large focus of this eDP revision is power efficiency. Lunar Lake will support three external displays by default, with up to 3x 4K60 HDR displays, a single 8K60 HDR, or FHD/QHD 360Hz.

[Computex 2024] Intel Lunar Lake Is Coming To Premium Laptops This Year 35

A big part of the display component within the Xe2 that sits within Lunar Lake silicon is the power reductions made in various ways by shaving off any unnecessary processing that is practically imperceptible to human eye, such as Panel Replay, Local Adaptive Contrast Enhancement (LACE), Display Stream Compression (DSC) with up to 3:1 compression ratio, Content Match Refresh Rate, and more.

For example, Panel Replay works on the principle similar to LTPO displays on smartphones. While smartphones can drop refresh rate down to as low as 1Hz for static content, laptops can’t quite do that yet – but this feature is somewhat similar. When a static screen is detected, the display skips the frame fetching process and repeats the same frame directly, which saves on processing power.

Combining all power saving features together and the display can save plenty of power, which can significant boost battery life as display usually uses the most power aside from the chips themselves. In the case of YouTube playback, that’s about 70% power saved – so we can expect laptops to get even longer lasting endurance over Meteor Lake laptops in such scenarios.

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Additionally, Intel is also introducing a new codec support for Lunar Lake chips called VVC (Versatile Video Coding), or H.266. This new codec further shrinks the file size by 10% over AV1, and it comes with support for VR and panoramic content. VVC implements techniques like adaptive resolution streaming to reduce interruptions caused by bad internet connections, while screen content coding helps clean up the compression artifacts commonly shown in text characters.

NPU 4: Bigger NPU, Better Performance

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Intel anticipates developers to utilize more features that require NPU’s efficiency for certain type of workloads – the company says approximately 25% of developers utilizes NPU (while 40% relies on GPU and 35% on CPU), with that figure expected to expand to 30% next year.

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Despite the presence of the NPU, Intel doesn’t think that all AI workloads will be done in just the NPU. In fact, the company has been emphasizing “platform TOPS”, of which Lunar Lake has up to 120: 67 TOPS from the Xe2 GPU, 48 TOPS from the NPU, while the remaining 5 TOPS is filled by the CPU. Intel’s reasoning is simple – not all AI workloads are the same, as some requires lower latency, and this is where CPU comes in. For performance-first scenarios, that goes to the GPU; while NPU provides a balance of power and efficiency.

Misc: Thunderbolt 4, Wi-Fi 7, Intel Unison

[Computex 2024] Intel Lunar Lake Is Coming To Premium Laptops This Year 39

For Lunar Lake chips, Intel is mandating at least two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and they have to be on both sides of the laptop. Some laptops have quirks like having both Thunderbolt ports facing the same side, which doesn’t allow the laptop to be charged from the other side if the cable length is too short or the space is constrained. OEMs can go for 3 TB4 ports should they wish, or even a TB5 port – though that’ll require a discrete TB5 controller, which may increase the build cost (which is why the chipmaker hasn’t mandated TB5 in Lunar Lake).

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Intel is also using something called Enhanced Multi-Link Single-Radio (eMLSR) to save on cost and power while maintaining similar radio performance as a dual-radio solution. This works on a dual-antenna laptops that captures two separate channels from the same Wi-Fi, and it immediately switches over to the working channel if either of them lost the connection. This improves on the original MLSR implementation that is incapable of detecting an available channel once the prior connection is lost.

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Finally, Intel Unison is getting new features since the introduction last year – the app now allows the laptop to control supported tablets using the laptop keyboards and pointing devices, and devices without Unison installed will now work via the Swift Connect feature (which uses WebRTC protocol). Additionally, the universal hotspot feature will be made available after Lunar Lake launches later this year.

Pokdepinion: Super technical stuffs from Intel – hopefully this all translates to solid package overall. 

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Low Boon Shen
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