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2 Things You Need to Know About Intel Corp.'s New Laptop Chips

By Ashraf Eassa – Apr 6, 2018 at 9:06PM

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Coffee Lake makes its laptop debut.

Chip giant Intel (INTC -1.57%) has publicly committed to putting out new personal computer processors on a roughly annual cadence. The performance and power efficiency that the company brings to the table with each generation can come from design improvements, manufacturing technology enhancements, or, ideally, some combination of the two. Intel also tends to integrate new features and capabilities with each new generation. 

On April 2, Intel announced a new set of processors for notebook computers based on its Coffee Lake architecture. For high-performance notebook computers, mobile workstations, and so on, the company is introducing the Coffee Lake-H series of chips.

An Intel processor.

Image source: Intel.

For more mainstream and portable devices, the company is also introducing its lower-power Coffee Lake-U processors.

Here's what Intel wants you to know about these products.

1. Coffee Lake-H brings six cores to laptops

Intel's prior-generation H-series laptop processors, known as Kaby Lake-H, came in configurations with up to four high-performance processor cores. The H-series processors have topped out at four processor cores for years, although over time those cores have gotten both more powerful and more power efficient.

With Coffee Lake-H, Intel is introducing mobile hex-core processors. Not every Coffee Lake-H part has six cores -- the very lowest-end Core i5 models have only four cores -- but the Core i7, Core i9, and Xeon (for mobile workstation use) models all do.

Intel claims that the top Coffee Lake-H part can deliver up to 41% improved gaming performance and 59% faster 4K video editing than the second-fastest model in the prior-generation Kaby Lake-H lineup (the gap would be slightly narrower if Intel had used the top model in the Kaby Lake-H lineup for the comparison, but not by a whole lot).

All told, this looks like a really compelling upgrade to Intel's high-performance laptop lineup.

2. Coffee Lake-U brings more cores

For thinner and lighter notebooks, Intel is also introducing a product family known as Coffee Lake-U. These chips succeed the higher-end models within Kaby Lake-U, whose processors had two processor cores and Intel's highest-end GT3e graphics.

The Coffee Lake-U parts are essentially the Kaby Lake-U parts with GT3e graphics, but with two more processor cores added.

The differences don't quite end there, though. The Coffee Lake-U parts run at higher frequencies than their Kaby Lake-U predecessors did, thanks to design optimizations and a migration to a more advanced 14-nanometer++ technology (Kaby Lake was built on 14-nanometer+).

Moreover, the Coffee Lake-U parts now incorporate an updated PCH chip that improves power efficiency and includes some nifty new features like integrated Wi-Fi, USB 3.1 Gen2 support, and an upgraded audio processor.

And finally, the Kaby Lake-U parts that are being replaced came with 64MB of Intel's embedded DRAM, or eDRAM, memory on the same package as the processor and the PCH. This memory helped to accelerate both graphics and processor performance. The new Coffee Lake-U parts include twice the eDRAM memory that the Kaby Lake-U parts did, which could potentially boost performance.

Even though Intel didn't update the CPU core or graphics processor designs, the company did do quite a lot to make Coffee Lake-U a worthy successor to the Kaby Lake-U products.

Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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