Intel quad-core processors could finally be coming to Ultrabooks later this year
The line between Ultrabooks and powerful laptops may be disappearing. Intel is evidently readying a quad-core i5 processor that even a new Surface could use.
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 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.
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Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.