Intel’s Core Ultra Meteor Lake: A Refresh-Like Performer That Defies Expectations

December 23, 2023 by our News Team

Intel's new Core Ultra Meteor Lake processors offer upgraded core architectures and a 4nm-class process node, but face criticism for their power efficiency and similarities to the previous generation's Raptor Lake family.

  • Significant upgrade for Intel's client portfolio
  • Boasts upgraded core architectures and a 4nm-class process node
  • First chiplet-based design from Intel

Intel’s Core Ultra Meteor Lake processors are generating a lot of buzz in the tech world. This new generation of chips represents a significant upgrade for Intel’s client portfolio, boasting upgraded core architectures and a 4nm-class process node. It is also the first chiplet-based design from Intel. However, there is some controversy surrounding these processors, as they appear to be largely identical to the previous generation’s Raptor Lake family.

According to Tim Wilson, the VP of Intel’s Engineering Group and GM of SoC design, the Meteor Lake cores share many similarities with the Raptor Lake cores. The Redwood Cove and Crestmont cores in the Meteor Lake processors are architecturally similar to the Raptor Cove and Gracemont cores in the Raptor Lake processors. While there have been some minor changes, most of the last-gen design has been retained.

The Redwood Cove core in the Meteor Lake processors is almost identical to the Golden Cove core in the Raptor Lake processors. It features the same decoders, allocation Q, and op-cache, along with an identical memory subsystem. The only notable addition is a new AMX unit for matrix workloads, although it may be reserved for data center products rather than the client platform.

The Crestmont core in the Meteor Lake processors has a slightly wider Allocate/Rename Buffer and some tweaks to the Vector Execution Units compared to its Raptor Lake counterpart. Overall, the differences between the two generations are minimal.

Despite being marketed as a major upgrade, the Meteor Lake processors face criticism for their power efficiency. In most scenarios, they fall behind AMD’s year-old Ryzen 7000 “Phoenix” chips in both performance and efficiency. Intel has released a firmware update to improve performance and efficiency, but it remains to be seen how many updates will be necessary for Meteor Lake to become competitive.

When asked about the differences between the P-core and E-Cores of Meteor Lake compared to Raptor Lake, Tim Wilson explained that while there are some improvements in the microarchitecture of both the P and E cores, the core architecture remains very similar to Raptor Lake. This is because Intel focused on achieving a stable process flow with the new Intel 4 process, rather than making significant architectural changes.

Regarding the technical differences between traditional E-cores and low-power E-cores, Wilson clarified that they have the same architecture but are optimized differently for different tasks. The E-cores in the compute block are optimized for higher performance and multithreaded tasks, while the LPE cores in the SoC block are optimized for low-power tasks that don’t require the full computing power of the P/E cores.

One interesting aspect of the Meteor Lake processors is the use of TSMC N6 technology for the I/O module. This choice was driven by technical considerations rather than cost issues. The TSMC N6 process allows for high-voltage type transistors and has proven effective and cost-efficient for various types of chips.

In terms of the manufacturing process, the I/O module is built on Intel’s 1227 node, which serves as a base through miniature connectors. This passive exchanger provides “wires” between the blocks placed on it.

Overall, Intel’s Core Ultra Meteor Lake processors offer some improvements over their predecessors but also face criticism for their power efficiency. While they may not be the upgrade initially anticipated, they still represent a step forward for Intel’s client portfolio. As with any new technology, firmware updates and optimizations may help address some of the initial concerns and make Meteor Lake more competitive in the market.

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Background Information

About AMD: AMD, a large player in the semiconductor industry is known for its powerful processors and graphic solutions, AMD has consistently pushed the boundaries of performance, efficiency, and user experience. With a customer-centric approach, the company has cultivated a reputation for delivering high-performance solutions that cater to the needs of gamers, professionals, and general users. AMD's Ryzen series of processors have redefined the landscape of desktop and laptop computing, offering impressive multi-core performance and competitive pricing that has challenged the dominance of its competitors. Complementing its processor expertise, AMD's Radeon graphics cards have also earned accolades for their efficiency and exceptional graphical capabilities, making them a favored choice among gamers and content creators. The company's commitment to innovation and technology continues to shape the client computing landscape, providing users with powerful tools to fuel their digital endeavors.

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About Intel: Intel Corporation, a global technology leader, is for its semiconductor innovations that power computing and communication devices worldwide. As a pioneer in microprocessor technology, Intel has left an indelible mark on the evolution of computing with its processors that drive everything from PCs to data centers and beyond. With a history of advancements, Intel's relentless pursuit of innovation continues to shape the digital landscape, offering solutions that empower businesses and individuals to achieve new levels of productivity and connectivity.

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About TSMC: TSMC, or Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, is a semiconductor foundry based in Taiwan. Established in 1987, TSMC is a important player in the global semiconductor industry, specializing in the manufacturing of semiconductor wafers for a wide range of clients, including technology companies and chip designers. The company is known for its semiconductor fabrication processes and plays a critical role in advancing semiconductor technology worldwide.

TSMC website  TSMC LinkedIn

Technology Explained

chiplet: Chiplets are a new type of technology that is revolutionizing the computer industry. They are small, modular components that can be used to build powerful computing systems. Chiplets are designed to be used in combination with other components, such as processors, memory, and storage, to create a complete system. This allows for more efficient and cost-effective production of computers, as well as more powerful and versatile systems. Chiplets can be used to create powerful gaming PCs, high-end workstations, and even supercomputers. They are also being used in the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning applications. Chiplets are an exciting new technology that is changing the way we build and use computers.

E-Cores: E-Cores (Efficiency Cores) are a type of technology used in the computer industry to provide a more efficient and reliable way of powering and cooling computer components. They are made up of a combination of copper and aluminum, and are designed to be more efficient than traditional copper cores. E-Cores are used in a variety of applications, such as in CPUs, GPUs, and other computer components. They are also used in servers, laptops, and other electronic devices. The technology is designed to reduce heat and power consumption, while also providing a more reliable and efficient way of powering and cooling computer components.

SoC: A System-on-Chip (SoC) is a highly integrated semiconductor device that encapsulates various electronic components, including processors, memory, input/output interfaces, and often specialized hardware components, all on a single chip. SoCs are designed to provide a complete computing system or subsystem within a single chip package, offering enhanced performance, power efficiency, and compactness. They are commonly used in a wide range of devices, from smartphones and tablets to embedded systems and IoT devices, streamlining hardware complexity and facilitating efficient integration of multiple functions onto a single chip.

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