When Intel unveiled Tiger Lake last month, the company promised a chip that delivered uncompromising performance on both CPU and GPU. Today, it’s clear they weren’t kidding. Intel’s Tiger Lake is proof that the company still knows how to build performant CPUs.
Incidentally, it’s also the best APU — though of course, Intel doesn’t use that term — anyone has ever shipped. That’s according to the extensive data published by our sister site PCMag. While I haven’t tested the system myself, I trust the work they’ve done to be accurate.
Over the past 12 months, Intel and AMD have engaged a rapid-fire series of mobile chips. First, Intel launched Ice Lake, with better GPU performance and higher efficiency, but relatively flat CPU performance compared with 14nm CPUs. Then, AMD countered with its Ryzen 4000 mobile processors. These chips gave AMD a decisive lead in the mobile industry for the first time in years, and they’ll remain excellent CPUs after Tiger Lake is widely available, but Intel has decisively reclaimed per-core leadership in CPU performance as well as overall GPU performance leadership.
This last is particularly noteworthy, given that it demonstrates Ice Lake was no fluke. For most of the past two decades, Intel 3D graphics could more properly have been referred to as a 3D Decelerator. This began to change with Sandy Bridge, but after Skylake in 2015, Intel was content to let its GPU performance languish. That began changing with Ice Lake, and what Ice Lake began, Tiger Lake has fully unleashed. TGL isn’t just a little faster than AMD in gaming; it decisively outperforms the Vega-based GPU built into the Ryzen 4000.
In some cases, the gains are enough to make a difference in whether a game is playable. AMD’s Renoir is capable of 23fps in Far Cry 5 at 1920×1080 Normal, while Tiger Lake hits the 30fps target for minimum smooth playability. At low detail in the same title, AMD turns in a 1080p score of 27fps, while Intel manages 34fps. At those frame rates, Intel’s 1.26x performance advantage will be keenly felt.
Are there workloads where AMD retains an advantage? Absolutely. The eight Ryzen CPU cores are quite powerful in absolute terms and rendering benchmarks like Cinebench as well as encoding tests like Handbrake both shine on Ryzen. Anywhere AMD can leverage its core count, it performs well. In multiple applications like the Adobe suites, Tiger Lake is faster than Renoir.
Interestingly, Tiger Lake’s 15W configuration often outperforms AMD’s 25W configuration, according to PCMag’s testing. With Ice Lake, Intel could only cleanly beat its 15W systems with 25W hardware. That’s not the case any longer; Tiger Lake 15W systems outperform Ice Lake 25W configurations. Any way you slice it, TGL is an impressive outing for Intel.
AMD will debut its Zen 3 architecture for desktops before too much longer, so we’ll get a chance to see what the platform offers in that venue — and likely some idea of what to expect from the eventual APUs as well. Both Nvidia and Intel have come out swinging this fall. It’s going to be an interesting year, as AMD responds to its primary opponents in both markets.