By Dan Ackerman
The biggest news in technology right now is Intel's new 14th-gen chips, formerly known by the code name Meteor Lake and now known as the Intel Core Ultra processors.
There's a lot new here, not only enhanced AI capabilities and better on-board graphics, but also new connectivity features, better power efficiency and advancements that are going to impact a lot of the software you already use, especially if you're a content creator.
At the core of these new chips is a manufacturing process called Intel 4, which is a 7-nanometer process and the biggest leap there for Intel since 2019. With smaller transistors, you get more clock speed from the same power budget, which is why you hear people talking about CPU process technology all the time.
These new Intel systems will have integrated Thunderbolt 4 by default, which will drive at least dual 4K displays or a single 8K display. Depending on the graphics hardware, you could potentially drive many more displays than that. Yes, Thunderbolt 5 is coming at some point in the not-too-distant future, but it's still too early to talk about that.
Wi-Fi 6e is also integrated by default and many Core Ultra systems are going to be compatible with the Wi-Fi 7 standard, so you can expect much better wireless connectivity, especially if you're trading up from an older laptop.
Moving onto the big topic that will dominate 2024 and beyond, AI – these 14th-gen Core Ultra chips feature not only a CPU and a GPU, but also an NPU, or neural processing unit, which is specifically to carry some of the workload of local AI.
Why do you want AI running on your machine locally instead of using a cloud-based version? One good reason is security – you can make sure that the data you feed into AI stays local on your machine, and doesn’t end up anywhere else. After all, you might be feeding AI sensitive business or personal information.
In the most basic terms, the GPU powers high-throughput, high-power AI tasks, while the NPU handles sustained AI workloads, offloading those tasks from the CPU and GPU to save you power and battery life.
Photo: Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger launches Core Ultra.
But how does this impact popular creative apps? With AI enhancements, things like Adobe Creative Cloud apps and OBS can give you more efficiency and boost creativity. For instance, Adobe's suite could see smarter auto-editing features and faster rendering times, improving your creative workflow.
Having game-ready graphics built right into your CPU has long been a goal for the PC industry. Intel's most-advanced version of that is called Intel Arc, and while I haven't had a chance to test it running in a system yet, Intel says the new gen of Arc graphics roughly doubles the graphics performance from the previous generation.
Some Intel 14th-gen systems are launching right now, and Micro Center has the largest in-store launch lineup out there, including models from Acer and MSI. We'll have a lot more in early 2024, and we'll be seeing a lot more at CES 2024, so stay tuned for that.
See the MSI Prestige 16 AI Evo (Intel Core Ultra 7) at Micro Center
See the Acer Swift Go 14 (Intel Core Ultra 7) at Micro Center
Micro Center News Editor-in-Chief Dan Ackerman is a veteran of tech news publications including CNET and Gizmodo and has been testing and reviewing laptops for almost 20 years. He's also the author of The Tetris Effect, a Cold War history of world's most influential video game.
Thunderbolt 4 by default is super nice.
It will be interesting to see where these fall as far as performance goes!
This is interesting considering NVidia appears to be focusing heavily on AI
WiFi 6E by default is definitely a nice thing to have. I wonder if we’ll see the same level of power efficiency that Apple achieved with their M-Series chips after they showed Intel the door. Exciting time for hardware nerds!
Those new systems are awesome. 😦 We have them on display and they stand out!
The new 14th gen looking like a powerhouse with these features
Can't wait to get some of these on display!
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