Intel’s Lunar Lake chip uses up to 40% less power to drive AI vision

Intel Lunar Lake chip Computex 2024

More power efficiency, better graphics, and faster AI: three of the biggest improvements coming to laptops powered by the Intel Lunar Lake processors.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because all three factors formed the cornerstone of the chip-maker’s Meteor Lake series last year, sold under the Intel Core Ultra branding. This time around, both power and efficiency have taken another leap forward. And, as expected, AI remains a big talking point.

“AI is driving one of the most consequential eras of innovation the industry has ever seen,” said Pat Gelsinger, Intel CEO, at the company’s Computex 2024 keynote presentation. “The magic of silicon is once again enabling exponential advancements in computing that will push the boundaries of human potential and power the global economy for years to come.”

Lunar Lake versus Meteor Lake

Instead of going all out and filling its chip with cores, Intel opted for an eight-core hybrid design. It’s comprised of four performance cores and four efficiency cores, which Intel claims leads to the best combination of power and efficiency.

Based on its own testing, Lunar Lake uses up to 40% less power than Meteor Lake for a similar level of output. This bodes well for longer laptop battery lives, which will be a key battleground for the upcoming generation of PCs.

Intel Lunar Lake specs
Image: Intel.

Equipped with new Xe2 GPU technology, Intel advertises Lunar Lake’s integrated graphics as producing up to 50% better performance than Meteor Lake. Encompassing video editing and wide codec support, it’s also more broadly compatible with games. F1 24, a new game, ran smoothly in a demo showcasing Intel’s XeSS upscaling technology that helps increase performance.

Faster wireless connectivity is also on the way, with Wi-Fi 7 finally getting its flowers. Both Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4 are set to be integrated with Lunar Lake chips, enabling faster file transfers, and more reliable connections over multiple network bands.

Quantifying AI

In terms of numbers, Lunar Lake’s improved neural processing units (NPUs) reach up to 48 trillion operations per second (TOPs). It’s not quite the 50 TOPS claimed by AMD, but it’s not far off. Prior to Computex, Intel claimed its new chip outputs three times the AI performance over the last generation.

TOPs has recently been used by computing companies as a common unit of measurement to assess a device’s local AI capabilities. Essentially, the higher the number, the better the device is at handling sustained low-power workloads, freeing up the CPU and GPU for more powerful tasks.

Intel Lunar Lake chip in hand
Image: Chris Button.

What about actual usability beyond impressive-sounding specs? Intel’s largely putting that into the hands of developers and computer manufacturers. The company’s belief is that hardware provides the theoretical possibilities, while software is the true differentiator.

To that end, Intel pointed to its partnerships with developers, including some of the biggest names in software. Adobe, Dolby, BlackMagic, OBS, ByteDance, and Microsoft are among them. Microsoft’s recent partnership with Qualcomm on its Copilot+ PCs is water under the bridge, with AI features like Recall and Cocreator coming in a free update later this year.

AI PCs here and beyond

When Intel talks about “AI PCs”, it’s referring to more than just its NPU. At a pre-announcement briefing in Taipei, executives referred to Lunar Lake as having up to 120 platform TOPs shared between the NPU, CPU, and GPU.

“AI everywhere” continues to be the company’s mantra, which is reflected in its approach to AI. More than just the split between cloud-based and local AI, Intel also outlined how different workloads require different resources. Some tasks just use the NPU, while other, more burst-based tasks needing high power, will lean on the GPU.

Intel Lunar Lake chip next to laptop
Chips these small are powering the next generation of laptop PCs. Image: Chris Button.

When launching its previous-gen Meteor Lake processor, Intel claimed it was the start of the AI PC era. With Lunar Lake, Intel edges closer towards delivering on its lofty ambitions of the past 12 months.

Data from global analyst firm IDC suggests AI PCs –any PC “designed to run generative AI tasks locally” – will account for nearly 60% of total computer shipments by 2027. Furthermore, Intel has already shipped more than eight million Intel Core Ultra chips in devices, taking less than a year to do so. When Lunar Lake launches, it expects more than 40 million of its NPU-equipped chips to be out in the market this year.

When will Lunar Lake chips arrive?

Intel anticipates shipping its newest laptop processors in Q3 this year. The company hasn’t yet revealed the full range of models it’ll launch at that time, so expect more details in the coming months.

Intel mentioned its partnerships with more than 20 different companies, which are set to roll out more than 80 different Lunar Lake-powered laptops in the coming months. Expect to see many of the usual suspects, including Asus, Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and more.

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Chris Button attended Computex as a guest of Intel.