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Stopgap Intel Lunar Lake Boosts CPU, GPU, and NPU (AI) Performance

Live for today, gone tomorrow, that’s me! Ha ha ha!

Intel has disclosed details of its upcoming Lunar Lake PC processor, a stopgap product family distinguished by numerous attributes:

  • It’s only for laptops and will only replace some Intel Meteor Lake models. It’s not a replacement for Intel’s full SKU stack.
  • Like Meteor, it employs chiplets on a silicon substrate, increasing its cost. Comparable products from AMD and Qualcomm are monolithic.
  • Intel rates Lunar’s NPU at 48 TOPS, catching up with AMD and Qualcomm and meeting Microsoft’s Copilot requirement. Reports put this ahead of the forthcoming Intel Arrow Lake, which will be a full SKU-stack replacement. If Intel hadn’t cranked out Lunar, it would’ve been excluded from a class of PCs for a generation.
  • TSMC fabricates Lunar’s computing die in its N3B process. When Pat Gelsinger’s mentor Andy Grove led Intel, the company was legendary in the valley for having duplicate design teams. If the primary one failed to deliver, the company had a backstop. When Lunar Lake development began, Intel was in the throes of fixing its manufacturing operations. The company chartered the Lunar team with a TSMC-built chip in case the Intel 5N4Y plan failed. (It hasn’t succeeded yet.)
  • Lunar employs a new CPU architecture, Lion Cove. Intel has not completed a similar rearchitecting in years. The company claims instructions per cycle (IPC) increases by 14%. IPC varies by workload, but we expect the spread to be tighter for Lion Cove than for AMD Zen 5 or Arm Cortex-X925 as less of it comes from vector/FP throughput gains.
  • Lunar also has a new GPU, promising 1.5× Meteor’s graphics performance and an additional 67 TOPS.
  • Systems should be available in Q3.

Bottom Line

Intel Lunar Lake will help the company maintain its dominance in PC processors by upgrading features and performance to remain competitive. However, it serves only a slice of the market, and Intel must deliver comparable advantages with the forthcoming Arrow Lake. Manufacturing cost is a key weakness, and Lunar might prove unprofitable if increased competition from AMD, Qualcomm, and other Arm-based entrants ignites a price war.


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