Intel reveals Lunar Lake’s architecture, showing how its flagship AI PC processor will work

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Qualcomm made headlines when it was named the chipmaker for Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs. However, that hasn’t deterred Intel from innovating for this new form of computing. The company had been working on chips to power AI PCs long before Microsoft’s news. In fact, on that very same day, Intel announced its Lunar Lake processor, a chip that would power more than 80 new laptop designs from 20 computer makers. The chip is scheduled to be released in Q3 2024.

Image credit: Intel

Intel wants to power AI inside

This week at Computex, Intel is revealing architectural details about the Lunar Lake processor it claims will deliver up to 40 percent SoC power and more than three times the AI compute.

“The launch of Lunar Lake will bring meaningful fundamental improvements across security, battery life, and more thanks to our deep co-engineering partnership with Intel. We are excited to see Lunar Lake come to market with a 40+ TOPS NPU, which will deliver Microsoft’s Copilot+ experiences at scale when available,” Pavan Davuluri, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Windows + Devices, remarked in May.

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Image credit: Intel

Intel is designing Lunar Lake with two microarchitectures: a Performance Core (P-core), codenamed Lion Cove, and an Efficient Core (E-core), codenamed Skymont. It will contain the company’s fourth-generation neural processing unit (NPU) that delivers up to 48 tera-operations per second (TOPS) of AI performance, three times more than the third-gen NPU. Also included is the new Battlemage GPU design that combines Xe2 GPU cores for graphics and Xe Matrix Extension (XMX) arrays for AI. The Xe2 GPU is billed as providing more than 80 percent more gaming performance and more than five times the AI throughput than its predecessor. Intel claims it can also deliver more than 60 TOPS.

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In addition, Lunar Lake features an advanced low-power island, a novel compute cluster and a way to process background and productivity tasks with “extreme efficiency.”

Intel's Lunar Lake P-Core architecture. Image credit: Intel
Intel’s Lunar Lake P-Core architecture. Image credit: Intel
Intel Lunar Lake E-core
Intel Lunar Lake E-Core architecture. Image credit: Intel

The AI PC race heats up

Now that Microsoft has opened the floodgates for AI PCs, we’re starting to see a deluge of innovation around this computing platform—not a trickle. Intel’s Lunar Lake news comes a day after Nvidia and AMD disclosed their efforts to bring Microsoft Copilot+ PC AI features to more laptops. The former teased so-called “RTX AI PC” laptops from Asus and MSI and the latter has its Strix laptop CPU.

It’s estimated AI PCs will make up almost 60 percent of new PCs by 2027. The first 20 computers supporting Microsoft’s Copilot+ PC will go on sale in a matter of weeks. It would be foolhardy to think those would be the only ones to exist. To remain competitive, chipmakers must develop powerful NPUs to support the AI PC OS.

When launched “in time for the holiday season,” Intel’s Lunar Lake will help bring 80 more PCs to market, but the company hasn’t revealed the OEMs. Ultimately, the chip is expected to deliver Copilot+ experiences to users through an over-the-air update, including the controversial Recall feature.

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