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Leaked slides imply Intel Goldmont offers 30% better CPU performance, increased battery life

Back in April, Intel announced its upcoming Apollo Lake platform, billed as an architectural refresh for low-cost Pentium and Celeron systems. Apollo Lake is built on Intel’s next-generation Goldmont CPU architecture with Skylake-derived graphics, and will debut on a 14nm process. Actual performance figures, however, weren’t discussed.

A leaked slide spotted on the Anandtech forums sheds some more light on things and offers a preview of what Intel has packed into Goldmont and its accompanying GPU. The translated Chinese appears to the right of each information block on the slide.

If this slide is accurate, Goldmont will improve CPU performance by 30%, introduce a new Skylake-derived GPU architecture for a 30% uplift in graphics, support DDR3L, LPDDR3, and LPDDR4, improve battery life by 15%, introduce new I/O options with added USB Type-C support, and work under both Linux and Windows 10 64-bit.

As updates go, these are fairly significant, though obviously they can’t be verified until we see shipping hardware. The gap between Silvermont and Goldmont won’t be nearly as large as the difference between Clover Trail and Silvermont, but there’s a simple explanation for that. The Atom core inside Intel’s Clover Trail tablet platform back in 2012 was badly outdated, having originally debuted on 45nm in 2008. To put that in perspective, ARM had moved from the ARMv11 architecture in 2008 to Cortex-A8, then to dual-core Cortex-A9. The first Cortex-A15 devices shipped in 2012, just before Intel formally launched its 22nm Silvermont architecture and first meaningful CPU update in four years. Silvermont was far more potent than Clover Trail had been, especially since it offered up to four cores (Clover Trail topped out at dual-core + HyperThreading) and significantly improved performance per clock.

Goldmont is sticking with four cores and eschewing Hyper-Threading, but higher efficiency and improved clock speed make a 30% improvement quite reasonable, especially since Intel can apparently deliver it while simultaneously improving battery life for a net improvement in cost per watt. 30% GPU uplift isn’t going to turn Atom or Celeron systems into gaming boxes, but it could easily make the difference between a playable and unplayable frame rate. If we set 30 FPS as our minimum acceptable gaming target on a budget system of this nature, a 30% GPU increase would turn a 25 FPS game into a 32.5 FPS title. It may not compare well to monster systems with a GTX 1080, but in a small laptop that kind of improvement is quite solid.

While Intel plans to pull out of the Android business and killed its SoCs, we should still see Goldmont debuting on lower-end 2-in-1 devices and some low-cost portable laptops. We were quite impressed with devices like the Asus T100 when Bay Trail debuted — hopefully Goldmont will give budget users more bang for their buck, while simultaneously packing in enough GPU horsepower to make the system useful for some very light gaming.

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