Intel quad-core processors could finally be coming to Ultrabooks later this year

Intel stickers
Intel stickers (Image credit: Windows Central)

September is set to kick off IFA in Berlin where new PCs from the world's leading manufacturers are likely to be unveiled. Intel is also expected to announce its new 8th generation line of Core processors dubbed "Coffee Lake." - while not a true generational shift in the 10nm range coming with "Cannonlake," the 14nm Coffee Lake CPUs could harbor a few surprises.

The site NotebookCheck has spotted some online benchmarks with the forthcoming processors including the Intel Core i5-8250U. What's interesting is for the first time we may be seeing 15W quad-core processors hitting Ultrabooks.

Up until now, the Ultra-Low Voltage (ULV) 15W processors found in devices like the Surface Pro, HP Spectre x360, Lenovo X1 Carbon, and Dell XPS 13 have all been dual-core in design. Only bigger, more expensive machines running battery-thirsty 45W processors like the 14-inch Razer Blade or Dell XPS 15 grabbed the quad-core packages due to power requirements and thermal restrictions.

Unverified benchmarks show the Intel Core i5-8250U with four cores and eight threads, making it a compelling option. While single-core benchmarks with the i5-8250U are similar to the current i5-7300U, the multi-core score jumps from 8,347 to an impressive 14,265 in GeekBench.

Adding to the mix, just three days ago the Lenovo Yoga 920 was spotted at the FCC with a quad-core Intel Core i5-8250U at 1.6GHz.

What a current 45W quad-core looks like on the inside.

What a current 45W quad-core looks like on the inside.

What does this mean for consumers? Potentially, for the first time, we may see devices like the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre x360 jump from dual to quad core levels. Microsoft could also finally make a quad-core Surface device (besides the desktop Surface Studio), which may be good news for a Surface Book 2 if Microsoft is serious about it remaining dominant. More cores are better for heavy lifting applications like Adobe Photoshop, video rendering, app compiling and gaming.

Of course, quad-core is not everything and without a discrete GPU, there are still limits on what an Ultrabook could do compared to a gaming PC.

While thermal dissipation and chassis throttling will certainly be a limiting factor for gaming at least for regular computing, those devices could be significantly more powerful with at least a 30 percent improvement over the current generation.

For now, we'll just have to wait unto later this year to see what Intel and its partners announce. The question of a 15W ULV processor going from dual to quad core was never an "if," but "when" and it's starting to look like that day is soon.

Windows Central will be at IFA in September to cover all the relevant PC news announced.

Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

35 Comments
  • This is really something that Intel should have done in 2015. The Skylake parts can scale down sufficiently per core to allow for a quadcore setup in a 25 watt turbo/15 watt tdp setup like the surface book. Heck, my i5-6300u only draws 11 watts running prime 95 at 2.9GHz when undervolted. That means that a quadcore running at that speed should use about 22 watts which is still under the 25 wat boost tdp that the Surface products support. Perhaps skylake quadcores would need to go down to 1.4GHz or something for sustained loads, but at least for most non-gaming tasks it would have been a hell of a lot quicker. The reason we are just now seeing this is that Intel had no competition for the past decade in portable X86.
  • I dunno, I know it's easy to say "they could have always done this" but we're seeing PL1 throttling in dual-core already after 10-20 mins in some of these 2lbs machines. What do you think a quad-core will be like at current TDP levels? It appears this quad-core i5 has a lower base frequency, which is how they're getting around some of the tdp/thermal stuff, but you can more boost for the cores when needed. It'll be interesting to see not only how well it performs, but for how long.
  • They should reserve the Quad-Core chipsets to just the professional and gaming laptops. Ultraportables don't need this plus it's a waste of energy to engineer this stuff.
  • What did Mr. Ford once say? If he'd asked the people what they want to get faster from A to B, they would have said "faster horses".
  • No, it's not. The only way it's a waste is if developers let it be. Are you seriously against improving tech as time moves forward? It's 2017, quad-core CPUs are now the baseline. AMD's Ryzen chips start at 4 cores and 4 threads, and while that's on the desktop front, it's also a sign of two things: the ned to move mobile forward as well and the need for software devs to embrace multi-threaded processing.
  • Here's when you have to ask yourself WHY NOT?
  • Why?
  • I think this is merely Intel finally getting off their asses and putting R&D effort into their chipsets again due to improving competition from AMD and now Qualcomm incoming. It's way overdue that these quad core chipsets made their way into ultrabooks.
  • Higher core processors always have lower base frequencies. What they lack in single core performance, they make up for in parallelism. I am hoping that this is why Microsoft has yet to replace the Surface Book -- that and I hope that they are redesigning it to avoid (as an owner of the SB with Performance Base, I absolutely love the battery life, but I never take advantage of detaching it).
  • Intel has clearly dragged its feet throughout AMD's Bulldozer fiasco. That's why Ryzen popped up and surprised people. Intel then countered with, what, a $2,000 CPU to fight the half-priced AMD chip that doesn't look much different, while dragging out their 14nm process from the typical 2 years to 4? Intel's just not pushing the envelope, and it shows.
  • why don't they make a good mobile chip. How hard can it be with so much cash and knowledge.
  • No offense, but this like going to NASA and saying "God, why you can't you send someone to Mars? How hard can it be?" Anytime you ask "how hard can it be?" about a technical field you are not immersed or trained in the likely answer is "harder than you think". It's not just throwing cash at a problem. Most things can't be solved like that, it takes time, effort, creation, discovery, and research. Batteries have barely changed in 15 years and heat is still a problem. Those issues - and keeping production costs low - are the biggest obstacles here.
  • Well actually cash would bring nasa easily to mars. Because of not enough cash the space program hasn't been as active as before. And i wasn't just ******** on Intel, maybe someone could explain... The difference with the nasa comparison is that Qualcomm already did it, so we know it's possible. Intel has a lot of cash and knowledge so it should be possible. To be honest I think they got lazy and are kind of spoiled as a company because of lack of competition. Just like Microsoft they got behind by ignoring the market. Now intel probably thinks, hey let's get every last bit out of that desktop/laptop market before we innovate. They already admitted their loss just like Microsoft.
  • This sounds like a lot of speculation/story telling about a field you don't follow too closely. Just because we can guess, throw an uninformed opinion around doesn't mean we should. It's much easier to "they just got lazy" or "just do it" without actually understanding the intricacies of the topic at hand.
    "Qualcomm already did it, so we know it's possible"
    Did what? Intel is x64 and Qualcomm is ARM. Vastly different architectures, design and constraints. A quad-core Core i5 would crush an ARM chip. I'm starting to believe you don't really understand this topic, but are giving an opinion and then asking for others to explain it to you. That's really not how knowledge works.
  • I do understand the difference and you make good points about the speculation part. But even CEO's like Balmer with all the knowledge make stupid decisions and are sleeping now and then. It is a well known phenomenon that once things go to easy for a company or an individual that a lower level of awareness and a lesser mentality for innovation sneaks in.
    As for the story with Intel, they simply didn't manage to capture the mobile market and were trashed by Qualcomm. The architecture is not important in the long run. The software will come where the users are........ ARM is simply way more convenient in use.
  • still, we are talking about bringing high performance chips to ultrabooks, not ARM chips. From what I know X64 has been vastly more performant than ARM and is also quite a bit more complex in its architecture. One of the reason it isn't all that good on mobile as it creates more heat and uses more power.   However the thing is, that this discussion is not about whether or not Intel should have made a competing architecture to ARM, but wether or not they could have managed to bring their better-performing quadcore CPUs to ultrabooks sooner. And in this case any comparison to Qualcomm does not make any sense
  • I see where he's coming from on this, but he's off base. Intel has tried and failed to break into the mobile market before, and it wasn't from a lack of trying. While it's true that Intel may be content with its PC monopoly and this may be stifling their innovation and creativity, the issue isn't how much money Intel has or how big their R&D department is.
  • Intel is x64 and Qualcomm is ARM.
    Well mmaybe here lies the problem / lazyness? If x64 doesn't work for mobile, they should have gone for a new architecture from the start and not try to sell something that doesn't work. That's just trying to milk their product with no effort. Also, they misjudged the market, like everyone did with the iPhone, except it was with ARM now. Don't say like "x64 doesnt work well with mobile, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯". That's not how innovation works. 
  • If Intel weren't doing such a poor job of progessing, I'd agree. However, intel could--and should--have done more than they have. AMD caught up in a hurry as a result, and Intel's counter hasn't looked promising yet.
  • Bring it on. Quad core on the surface book 2 would be awesome and would make it even more of an instant buy for me
  • I think the best fit is the Surface Book where it can be paired with hopefully a 10X0 Nvidia option.
  • A Surface Book 2 (2018) with Core i7-7700U + NIVIDIA GTX1050 + 32GB RAM = killer 2-in-1 !!!!
  • Highly doubt a 1050, probably an MX150
  • This is really interesting, a Surface Pro can get me by but I have always felt I wanted more power as a developer. I can really tell a difference when I'm on my full powered desktop - Never wanted to compromise the portability when it comes to my mobile devices this could lead to the best of both worlds. Could the dual core i5 be fanless in lower powered/cheaper devices and quad core with a fan in more expensive ones?
  • The surface pro 2017 core i5 version(dual core) is already fanless;")
  • I just bought a Surface Pro 2017 model... Maybe I should still return it while it's in its 30 days hahaha
  • Ryzen or quit. I'll take an AMD APU with Zen and Vega, because Intel just isn't there on the iGPU. Ryzen's simply put AMD at the front of the line for me, no contest, and that's before considering what a bucnh of crooks and cheats Intel have historically been. I'm excited to see Vega in a week or two, then we can hopefully start to see the APU market from AMD pop up in laptops. I'd like to see a Zen+Vega-based device from ASUS, that'd be the first time I'll seriously look at a laptop.
  • +1 Keith
  • Looking at the press material Intel releases, they are ridiculously scared of Ryzen. AMD Raven Ridge (4 core APUs) with Zen + Vega should start appearing in ultrabooks by the end of the year.
  • Way overdue Intel. Only took fierce competition from AMD and soon ARM processors taking over the Windows PCs to get you off your asses. This would be a sweet processor upgrade in the next Surface Pro. Hopefully it includes Thunderbolt 3, making it the perfect upgrade to my Surface Pro 2.
  • Hope they do sufficient testing if they are placing this in SB2. Really no rush to release it, they introduced the performance base and released globally not too long ago. SB2 should be vastly better in performance, not just a small upgrade.
  • This would be phenomenal for a future Surface Book. I currently use a Thinkpad P50 for most of my "serious" computing because of the Quad Core (and my fondness for the TrackPoint) but I really dislike the screen ratio (16:9). I much prefer the 3:2 Surface ratio. If they can fix the fan hiss and get a QC I might upgrade in the next couple of years. Oh, and add a 32GB RAM option.
  • There should be already be quad core Surface books and Studios at this point but a Surface Pro with quad core would be the perfect Surface device for me.
  • Low power consumption is more important for most users. Most apps don't use multi cores.
  • The lack of quadcore is what ultimately killed the surface for me. I used it for a long time but then got to work on a machine with a quadcore processor and the added speed in the already extremely sluggish adobe creative cloud was qute beneficial! So I ditched my surface for my current machine.