11th-Gen Intel Core Tiger Lake Review: New Features, Pros, and Cons

11th-Gen Intel Core Tiger Lake Review: New Features, Pros, and Cons

Tiger Lake is the codename for the 11th-generation Intel Core processors from Intel Corporation. Launched on 2 September 2020, it is the successor to the Ice Lake family of mobile processors, which were first introduced in September 2019.

Reviewers and enthusiasts have noted that the introduction of these 11th-generation Intel Core mobile processors would provide ultraportable laptops with their much-needed performance boost and improved battery efficiency.

New Features and Specifications of 11th-Intel Core Tiger Lake: Instruction Set Architecture and Microarchitecture

The Tiger Lake processors are still based on the CISC-derived x86-64 instruction set architecture, and its implementation is based on the newer Willow Cove microarchitecture developed by Intel, the successor to the Sunny Cove microarchitecture.

Willow Cove is almost identical to the previous microarchitecture. However, Intel explained that it has new security features, a redesigned cache subsystem, and higher clock speeds, thus giving it a 10 to 20 percent performance boost when compared to Sunny Cove.

In manufacturing Tiger Lake processors, Intel uses its third-generation 10nm process node known as 10nm SuperFin technology, which is claimed to redefine field-effect transistors by introducing innovation across the entire process stack.

The 10nm SuperFin technology specifically focuses on three areas: inclusion of additional gate pitch for higher drive current, improving gate process to achieve higher channel mobility, and enhanced epitaxial source/drain to lower resistance and increase strain.

It is also important to note that Intel Core processors are integrated circuitries with some elements of a system-on-a-chip. The following are the general components and features of Intel Core Tiger Lake processors:

Central Processing Unit: The CPU has 2 to 8 cores, depending on the particular model, based on the Willow Cove microarchitecture. It has larger 1.25MB L2 caches and 3MB L3 caches compared to the previous generations, full RAM encryption, Intel Key Locker, and indirect branch tracking and CET shadow stack.

Graphics Processing Unit: Another notable feature of Tiger Lake processors, especially the Intel Core 5 and Intel Core 7 models, is the new Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, which introduce capabilities such as support for a single 8K 12-bit HDR display or two 4K 10-bit HDR displays, and PC gaming via laptop.

Image Processing Unit: Some models of the 11th-generation Intel Core processors, except the embedded models, have an integrated image processing unit that works as a co-processor to improve image and video capture quality.

I/O Systems and Connectivity: 11th-gen Intel Core processors support PCI Express 4.0, Integrated Thunderbolt 4 and USB4, and LPDDR4X-4267 RAM, as well as LPDDR5-5400 RAM capability. They are also compatible with the Wi-Fi 6 standard.

Unique Selling Points and Drawbacks: Pros and Cons of the 11th-Generation Intel Core Tiger Lake Processors

Advantages of Tiger Lake Processors

1. A Comparison with Other Processors

The difference between Sunny Lake and Tiger Lake processors is substantial. Remember that 11th-generation Intel Core is based on the newer Willow Cove microarchitecture, which provides a 10 to 20 percent performance boost compared to Sunny Cove.

Furthermore, the 10nm SuperFin technology equips these processors with a higher drive current from additional gate pitch, higher channel mobility from improved gate process, and lower resistance and increase strain from enhanced epitaxial source/drain.

Intel has demonstrated that for productivity applications, such as word processing, Tiger Lake processors are 32 percent faster than Ice Lake and 24 percent faster than AMD Ryzen chips. High-end variants provide a 68 percent graphics boost than Ice Lake.

2. Capabilities of Intel Iris Xe Graphics

The Intel Iris Xe is an integrated graphics solution from Intel that marks a considerable leap from the previous generations of Intel Iris integrated GPUs and a new era of integrated GPUs for portable laptops and mid-range desktop computers.

Note that this new integrated GPU promises to enable PC gaming on ultraportable laptops, faster and efficient photo and video editing with the aid of artificial intelligence, and better consumption of high-definition video content.

Other advantages of Intel Iris Xe include improved battery performance by providing a good balance between power efficiency and graphics processing performance, and the Intel Deep Link Technology for maximizing the capabilities of the Intel Iris Xe Max discrete GPU.

3. Powers Intel Evo-Branded Laptops

Intel Evo is a platform launched in 2020 for designing and manufacturing premium and portable laptops based on identified key requirements. The major requirement is that these Evo-branded laptops should use at least an Intel Core i5 or i7 Tiger Lake processor.

Furthermore, there is a set of key performance indicators to be considered as an Intel Evo laptop. These include battery performance, integrated graphics solution using Intel Iris Xe, wired and wireless connectivity, and responsiveness.

The aforementioned indicators are naturally addressed by a mid-range Tiger Lake processor because they inherently take into consideration performance boost and energy efficiency, graphics processing capabilities, and connectivity.

Disadvantages of Tiger Lake Processors

1. Confusion Over Different Models

One of the cons of 11th-generation Intel Core Tiger Lake processors, which is similar to the cons of previous generations of Intel Core processors, is the availability of different variants or models. Not all Tiger Lake processors have the same performance and capabilities.

Note that the Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics is only available for Core i5 and Core i7 models. Intel Core i3 models use the older Intel UHD Graphics. Furthermore, some models support Wi-Fi 6 standard while newer ones support the newer Wi-Fi 6E standard.

To maximize the features and capabilities of a particular 11th-gen Intel Core processor, it is important to understand the specific uses cases of a particular consumer, and read thoroughly through the technical specification sheet.

2. Availability of Other Powerful Processors

It cannot be denied that the 11th-generation Intel Core processors mark a significant improvement in the product portfolio of Intel. Their strengths come from the new microarchitecture, new process node, and integrated graphics solution.

However, a number of consumers still consider Tiger Lake processors, especially the entry-level and mid-level ones, as general-purpose and all-around chips ideal for office productivity applications, moderate graphics processing, and casual usage.

Some consumers might choose AMD Ryzen 4000 processors or the newer Ryzen 5000 and 6000 processors for graphics-demanding use cases in portable laptops. Examples include PC gaming and as well as high-resolution photo and video editing.

3. Drawbacks of Intel Iris Xe Graphics

The Intel Iris Xe integrated GPU is undeniably a capable hardware for graphics processing. It certainly equips 11th-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 with capabilities to handle graphics-critical tasks and other co-processing requirements.

However, note that integrated graphics solutions have disadvantages, especially when compared with dedicated or discrete graphics processors. Thus, to a certain extent, an integrated GPU is another limitation of Intel Core Tiger Lake processors.

Users can still equip their devices with discrete GPUs for their needed performance boost. But this is still dependent on the particular make and model of their machines. Some devices do not provide options for attaching another graphics processor.