Why you should be extra careful when buying a laptop PC with a Tiger Lake processor


The arrival of 11th generation Intel Core processors in the market was eagerly awaited. It is synonymous with a massive passage to 10 nm engraving at Intel and also marks the new turn taken by Intel at the level of the graphic part Xe: 3D capabilities incomparable with the previous generation. All this in a processor that is required to fit into ultraportables.

This is enough to make these machines much more versatile than they currently are. But one of Intel’s biggest challenges has been the consumption of processors.

Adaptable consumption, Intel’s new credo

Rather than sticking to a fixed TDP (thermal envelope) value, Intel communicates on a range of values ​​for these nine newcomers.

Intel Tiger Lake

On the one hand, the four “very low consumption” chips will need 7 to 15 watts and, on the other hand, the other five “low consumption” models will have a greater or lesser appetite, from 12 to 28. watts.

“Laptops no longer have to be confined and / or designed around a static value for energy consumption. “

This is the sentence that could be read on one of the slides in Intel’s presentation. It sums up the entire philosophy of the founder around the consumption of Tiger Lake, which risks becoming a real headache for those who are considering buying a PC.

Better for builders, less clear to users

Thanks to this new approach, the life of PC builders will be considerably easier for PC builders. Depending on the fineness of their machines and the cooling device they wish to use, they can in fact limit the risk of overheating, and, by side effect, improve the autonomy of the device. But this will not be without impact on the power of the chip of course and this is where the shoe pinches. Why ? It’s simple.

To put it simply: two machines, one from brand A and another from brand B, equipped with the same processor and the same technical platform, will not necessarily provide the same level of performance …

And then what about the real consumption of the chips if the manufacturers have a choice and Intel no longer communicates on these values ​​at all?

The possible levels of consumption and the Turbo

  • Consumption on several levels

Rather than getting lost in technical explanations, we are going to take a guinea pig. The most powerful Core i7-1185G7 processor in the fleet will do just fine.

In the table above, we notice that its basic speed is given for 3 GHz and its maximum single-core Turbo mode at 4.8 GHz.

When running at 3 GHz, it consumes 28 watts, this is a certainty even if Intel does not clearly indicate this. These 28 watts correspond here to the first pivotal level that the processor can reach (its PL1, Power Limit 1) maximum for purists).

In the case of Tiger Lake, note that this level can quite be positioned at 15 watts or 18 watts if a manufacturer so wishes, via a simple adjustment made by the designer of the PC. Obviously, the performance will not be the same at all, as can be seen from the graph below.

But, in any case, if there is a first level, at 28 watts and 3 GHz, there must be a second, otherwise how could the chip climb to 4.8 GHz?

  • The efficient Turbo, but more and more voracious

The second, even third, stages are crossed when the various Turbo modes come into action.

Thus, our Core i7 will consume much more than 28 watts when it is going to be turbocharged fully, even if only one of its four cores is working and the others are in hibernation and, in this case, they do not need that very little energy.

The small graph below shows that, compared to the base TDP, the Turbo mode consumes more energy, generation of Core after generation of Core, and gains in efficiency. More problematic, it’s not just a few watts.

Intel has confirmed that Turbo Mode can be very power hungry. While he wanted to show us how the Core i7 was much more constant in the effort than its competitor Ryzen 7 – whether it is powered by a mains unit (orange) or a laptop battery (blue) in the graph below – the founder of Santa Clara also revealed to us that small low consumption chips have an appetite.

Read also : How, with EVO, Intel wants to repeat Centrino’s success and maintain its lead over AMD

At first sight, it is undeniable that, according to data provided by Intel, the Tiger Lake adopts the same behavior of consumption and therefore activity, regardless of its power source, during a test conducted on Office 365. The Ryzen 7 would, for its part, be almost anemic as soon as it operates on battery (right graph, still in blue).

With a little hindsight and consumer concern in mind, it is staggering to see how the curves are flying on the Intel side. The track reached 50 watts for a short time and even exceeds 30 watts thereafter. Translation: the Turbo was titillated by the test and it reacted quickly. More annoying, it has doubled its consumption.

Under the same test conditions, the Ryzen 7 also experienced a burst of activity on one of its cores, at the same time as the Intel chip, proof that the Turbo was also engaged there (and consumption does not exceed not 35 watts).

Between this displayed docility and the significant consumption peaks, it is a safe bet that the endurance of laptops equipped with these processors is affected.
Likewise, if a platform is capable of consuming a variable number of peak watts, this may well give manufacturers an additional argument not to change their horrible mains charger and swap them for smaller and less heavy models.

We will have to be on the lookout!

Balance sheet, at first glance, we will have to be careful when the time comes to buy a machine in Tiger Lake. NOTWe are absolutely not sure that the PC manufacturers communicate on the consumption of the chip present in their foals.
They will continue to fill in the reference, but will certainly not go so far as to indicate the number of watts consumed to avoid being able to compare them a little too easily with their competitors.

Read also – ZenBook S 2020: Asus brings an exceptional screen and the power of Tiger Lake to its ultraportable PC

For some, power doesn’t matter as long as everyday apps are working. But others invest in ultraportable machines because they have such or such component, known to operate at a given speed or to be preferred when it is necessary to run very specific apps, creation or even business. For those, except specific communication, the choice of a machine risks, suddenly, to become much more complicated …

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