Intel brings 10-nm Ice Lake CPUs, Lakefield SoCs, and more to CES


Intel may have announced six new Core CPUs at its CES keynote in Las Vegas last night, but that's not really the company's most interesting announcement at the show. That title probably rests on the shoulders of four upcoming Intel products based on the company's beleaguered 10-nm fabrication process: the Lakefield low-power client processors, the Snow Ridge network SoC, and Ice Lake chips for every market segment.

Ice Lake was both the first and the last thing that Intel talked about. The code name refers to upcoming 10-nm processors based around Intel's "Sunny Cove" CPU microarchitecture. To be clear, Sunny Cove is Intel's first new CPU core design since Skylake. The main characteristics of the new architecture over its predecessor seem to be increased data security and improved single-threaded performance—instructions-per-clock (IPC) in particular. As extra info, you can read more about Sunny Cove and its machine learning acceleration here.


Intel SVP Gregory Bryant holds up an Ice Lake processor.

Client processors based on Ice Lake will benefit from more than just the new CPU core, though. Intel SVP Gregory Bryant rattled off a whole litany of features built into the chips, including native Thunderbolt 3 support, 802.11ax Wi-Fi, and drastically improved graphics performance thanks to the new "Gen11" graphics hardware. The number of execution units in the IGP ballooned from 24 in Coffee Lake's GT2 graphics to 64 in Ice Lake. Intel says it's targeting 1 TFLOPS for raw compute performance on the new graphics processors.


This man is apparently working on an early Ice Lake server processor.

Toward the end of the show, Intel briefly mentioned that it has Ice Lake parts headed for the datacenter, too. The company demoed an early Ice Lake server chip, fabricated on 10-nm, apparently generating a 3D character in real-time using machine learning. Intel gave frightfully few details about the chips, but noted that they employ the same Sunny Cove CPU cores that will be used in the company's client processors.

Sunny Cove cores will also be appearing in Intel's Lakefield SoCs. Those chips have a trick up their sleeves, though: they contain other types of CPU cores within. For the first time, Intel publicly demonstrated what it calls a "hybrid CPU"—meaning a CPU with more than one type of core inside. Lakefield mates a single Sunny Cove CPU core with four Atom-class cores, then adds in Gen11 graphics, memory, storage, and system components. All that silicon is then squished into a single package using Intel's Foveros 3D chip-stacking technology.


Intel SVP Gregory Bryant holds up a Lakefield system board.

Intel says it made Lakefield at the request of a single unnamed OEM, but that it will be available for any vendor to use in its products. The company showed off some representative designs for the SoC, including a fat phablet and an extremely slim convertible laptop. Given the extreme diminutiveness of the system board (yes, that little thing in the man's hands is the entire system board for an x86-64 PC) we reckon it could show up just about anywhere.

Finally, Intel briefly demoed the Snow Ridge network SoC. The company really didn't share many details about the silicon, but described it as a "network system on a chip" intended to go in 5G cellular base stations. Intel talked up and even briefly demoed the chip's traffic prioritization capabilities, and remarked on the benefits of "having a server at every base station." Based on that information, we'd expect Snow Ridge to be a next-generation Xeon-D processor with lots of integrated network hardware.

All of these chips are on the way, and all of them will be fabricated on Intel's 10-nm process. Ice Lake chips for consumers and machines based on Lakefield should be available by the holiday season this year, while Ice Lake for servers is slated to show up next year. Meanwhile, Intel said it expects that the launch of Snow Ridge in the second half of this year will allow it to take over 20% of the 5G base station market by 2020 and 40% by 2022.

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