Whiskey Lake and Amber Lake

It’s become increasingly confusing to sort out the latest CPU releases from Intel because of staggered release schedules between desktop and mobile chips, plus what amounts to mid-cycle refreshes. However, whenever Intel announces something new, we take note. Mid-cycle or not, new chips mean faster and more capable computers. The company’s latest announcement took place last week at the IFA 2018 tech show in Europe. Expect new Whiskey Lake and Amber Lake mobile processors to start showing up in laptops later this fall.

Here’s everything you need to know about Intel’s newest, 8th generation mobile CPUs.

Intel’s new U-Series and Y-series mobile processors

First, those code-names correspond to existing lineups in Intel’s product range. Whiskey Lake is the U-series of CPUs, while Amber Lake is the latest in the Y-series.

Neither uses the 10nm process expected for Intel’s 9th generation of CPUs, but instead build on the existing 14++nm process. And when it comes to the U-series, things can get even more confusing, because Intel also referred to last year’s Kaby Lake R chips as 8th generation. The company also released 8th generation H-Series mobile CPUs aimed at performance laptops, in the spring. Confused yet? I’ve seen references to Whisky Lake as generation 8.5, which helps at least a little.

Anyway, on to what the new generation of CPUs actually offer in terms of upgrades.

Baking more functionality into the processors

As with every new generation (or half-generation) of Intel CPUs, you can expect to see a performance boost. Compared to last year’s chips, that will be relatively modest. But Intel says that compared to fiver-year old CPUs, these should be nearly twice as fast, with big gains in video editing capability. At the same time, Intel says laptops powered by the new chips can deliver up to 16 hours of battery life.

Whiskey Lake and Amber Lake

Beyond speed, Intel has focused on baking some functionality into the processors that has become increasingly important in recent years. This means built-in support, with no need for additional chips. Gigabit Wi-Fi is now part of the processor, so any laptop equipped with Whiskey Lake or Amber Lake CPUs is guaranteed to have ultra-fast Wi-Fi connectivity. Also directly incorporated into the CPU is a quad-core DSP (digital signal processor). This supports the increasing use of digital voice assistants like Cortana and Alexa on laptops. The new chips also support advanced technology like DisplayPort 1.4, USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 3.

What’s the difference between Whiskey Lake and Amber Lake?

While both will be offered as Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 options, the two chips are aimed at two different classes of laptops. The U-Series (Whiskey Lake) is the more powerful of the two (with up to four cores), aimed at ultra-thin productivity laptops. The Y-Series (Amber Lake) is dual-core, and emphasizes compact size and battery life over raw performance, making it more likely to be found in ultra-thin and 2-in-1 laptops.

The latest and greatest Intel mobile CPUs are expected to start showing up in laptops this fall, and that means you can expect to see them soon at Best Buy.

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. I have been writing about technology for several decades for a wide range of outlets including Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, MSN, About.com, Kiplinger, and GeekDad. I’m in my 10th year as a senior contributor for Forbes with a focus on reviewing music-related tech, Apple gear, battery power stations and other consumer electronics. My day job is with the Malware Research Center at AI-native cybersecurity pioneer CrowdStrike.


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