Intel’s AI PC Chips Are a Big Step Forward



Intel‘s (NASDAQ: INTC) Meteor Lake PC CPUs officially launched on Dec. 14, with some laptops built around the new chips already available. One of the big selling points Intel is touting is a built-in AI accelerator. In software that supports it, Meteor Lake chips can offload AI inference tasks to the accelerator, freeing up the CPU and GPU and delivering improved AI performance.

Architecturally, Meteor Lake comes with some big changes. The new chips use the Intel 4 manufacturing process, the first from Intel to make use of extreme ultraviolet lithography. The chips also move to a tile-based design, with different parts manufactured using different technologies.

Not only does Meteor Lake excel at AI tasks, but the new chips deliver significant improvements in power efficiency and graphics. Meteor Lake moves to an Intel Arc GPU, which is twice as performant and twice as efficient as the graphics in Intel’s last-generation chips.

An important step for Intel

The PC market remains depressed after a pandemic-era buying spree gave way to a collapse in demand. Intel’s Meteor Lake might be the most exciting thing to happen to the laptop market since Apple started making MacBooks using its custom CPUs. The new chips might be enough to trigger an upgrade cycle in 2024 and beyond.

Meteor Lake’s AI hardware delivers big gains in AI inference workloads. Compared to its last-generation chips, Intel claims that Meteor Lake delivers 1.7 times the performance in generative AI and is 2.5 times as power efficient in the UL Procyon AI inference benchmark. When Meteor Lake’s AI hardware tackles the AI tasks involved when making a Zoom call, Intel claims a 38% reduction in power usage.

How much consumers and businesses care about Meteor Lake’s AI hardware depends on the software that supports it. Intel is aiming to boost the number of AI software partners from 39 today to 100 over the course of 2024. On top of the dedicated AI accelerator, the built-in GPU is capable of handling AI workloads as well. Intel claims in creative applications like those from Adobe, Meteor Lake can deliver anywhere from 1.2 times to 5.4 times the performance of a comparable AMD Ryzen CPU.

Beyond performance improvements, Meteor Lake delivers meaningful power efficiency improvements which should help with battery life. One example Intel gave was playing video from Netflix. By leveraging low-power cores built into Meteor Lake’s SoC tile, the new chips can play back video using 25% less power compared to Intel’s last-gen chips.

Compared to a Ryzen CPU, Intel is claiming that Meteor Lake is more efficient in a wide variety of scenarios. With both processors working within the same 28W power envelope, Meteor Lake is 7% more efficient in web browsing, 44% more efficient at playing back local 4K video, and a whopping 79% more efficient when the system is idle. These numbers come straight from Intel, so take them with a grain of salt. Third-party reviews of individual systems will give us a better idea of how these chips stack up.

A big bet on AI

Intel views AI as the future of the PC. Meteor Lake is the first step in that direction, and its successors will build on its improvements.

The success of Intel’s AI PC initiative will hinge on software support. Given Intel’s leading share in the PC CPU market, it makes sense for software companies to jump on board. Notably, Intel demonstrated LLaMa2-7B, a smaller large language model capable of text generation, successfully running on a Meteor Lake system using the CPU, GPU, and AI hardware. This opens the door for AI assistants running locally, which should make for a snappier experience compared to calling out to a cloud service on each prompt. That could end up being the “killer app” for Intel’s AI PCs.

Meteor Lake is the beginning of Intel’s push to bring AI to the PC. Next up is Arrow Lake, scheduled for some time in 2024. Arrow Lake will move to the Intel 20A manufacturing process, which should bring significant performance and efficiency gains. By then, the software ecosystem around Intel’s AI hardware should be more mature, and the value proposition should be clearer.

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Timothy Green has positions in Intel. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Adobe, Advanced Micro Devices, Apple, Netflix, and Zoom Video Communications. The Motley Fool recommends Intel and recommends the following options: long January 2023 $57.50 calls on Intel, long January 2024 $420 calls on Adobe, long January 2025 $45 calls on Intel, short February 2024 $47 calls on Intel, and short January 2024 $430 calls on Adobe. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Intel’s AI PC Chips Are a Big Step Forward was originally published by The Motley Fool

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