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Intel launches Gemini Lake SoCs with “Gigabit WiFi”

Dec 19, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 1984 views

Intel’s 14nm “Gemini Lake” Pentium Silver and Celeron SoCs are similar to Apollo Lake, but offer support for HDMI 2.0, VP9, and a speedy Gigabit WiFi.

Intel’s “Gemini Lake” follow-on to its Apollo Lake family of Atom, Pentium, and Celeron system-on-chips was first tipped in the third quarter, with more details emerging in early November. Earlier this month, we saw the first Gemini Lake based product announcement with the next-gen LattePanda Alpha and Delta SBCs, which feature the Gemini Lake Celeron N4100. Now, Intel formally announced the first six processors in the Gemini Lake line. They’re sampling now, with products expected to ship starting in 1Q 2018.



Intel Gemini Lake (left) and new Pentium Silver badge
(click images to enlarge)

The first desktop versions include the:

  • Pentium Silver J5005 — 4x 14nm cores @ 1.5GHz/2.8GHz burst); 10W TDP
  • Celeron J4105 — 4x 14nm cores @ 1.5GHz/2.5GHz burst); 10W TDP
  • Celeron J4005 — 2x 14nm cores @ 2:00GHz/2.7GHz burst); 10W TDP

The first mobile versions are:

  • Pentium Silver N5000 — 4x 14nm cores @ 1.1GHz/2.7GHz burst; 6.5W TDP; 4.8W SDP
  • Celeron N4100 — 4x 14nm cores @ 1.1GHz/2.4GHz burst; 6.5W TDP; 4.8W SDP
  • Celeron N4000 — 2x 14nm cores @ 1.1GHz/2.6GHz burst; 6.5W TDP; 4.8W SDP

Note that all the Gemini Lake thread counts are the same as the respective core counts. The most unusual configuration here is the dual-core desktop Celeron J4005, which has a higher base clock rate than the quad-core Pentium Silver, at 2.0GHz, and almost the same burst rate, at 2.7GHz.

The new Pentium Silver brand differentiates it from the current Pentiums found in the higher-end 7th Gen “Kaby Lake” processors, which Intel now calls Pentium Gold. These presumably include models such as the 7th Gen Pentium G4560T and Pentium G4600T. For some reason, Intel decided not to provide the same helpful differentiation between Kaby Lake and Gemini Lake Celeron processors.

Meanwhile, there was no mention of whether the Atom brand will continue. There has been speculation that Intel might abandon the Atom brand due to the failure of Atom models in the mobile market. (Atom chips have been quite successful in embedded, however.)

Although not mentioned in Intel’s announcement, a recent AnandTech story reports that all the Gemini Lake models use “Goldmont Plus” cores with the same 14nm fabrication as the Goldmont cores provided in the Apollo Lake (Atom E3900) SoCs. Back in November, AnandTech said that the Goldmont Plus cores would be faster because they offer a 4-wide issue design, compared to 3-wide for Apollo Lake, and 2-wide for Airmont cores in the 14nm Cherry Trail and Braswell families. However, the publication is now reporting that it’s 3-wide just like Apollo Lake.



Intel Gemini Lake desktop models
(click image to enlarge)

All six Gemini Lake models have 4MB cache sizes, up from 1MB to 2MB for Apollo Lake. Cache size is the source of most of the performance improvements, AnandTech says, noting that “we don’t expect dramatic increases in performance compared to Apollo Lake across the board.” All the parts offer dual-channel memory with support for DDR4-2400 and LPDDR4-2400 RAM at up to 8GB.


Intel Gemini Lake mobile models
(click image to enlarge)

The separation between desktop and mobile processors is consistent with Intel Core families such as Skylake and Kaby Lake, but has never been used for the Atom-related families such as Apollo Lake. The difference is reflected in slightly higher clock rates — for example up to 2.8GHz for the Pentium Silver J5005 desktop part vs. up to 2.7GHz for the Pentium Silver N5000. The “Intel UHD” graphics — listed as Graphics 605 for both Pentiums and 600 for all the Celerons — are also clocked slightly higher on desktop (up to 800MHz) vs. mobile (up to 750MHz).

Conversely, the mobile models have lower TDPs of 6.5W vs. 10W for the desktop parts. These are all more or less like Apollo Lake, with a slightly lower high-end (down from 12W TDP) and slightly higher low-end (up from 6W TDP).

Intel also lists a Scenario Design Power (SDP) rating of 4.8W for the mobile SoCs while no SDP configuration appears to be available for the desktop models. Apollo Lake models with SDP ratings go as low as 4W SDP.

Intel says little about all this in its announcement outside its charts and ARK pages except to claim that the Pentium Silver delivers 58 percent faster “productivity performance” compared to a 4-year old, 28nm Bay Trail Pentium. Instead, the chipmaker focuses on WiFi and streaming enhancements.

The wireless breakthrough is the new support for Gigabit WiFi (Intel 9560 AC), by which Intel means 802.11ac with 2×2 MU-MIMO and 160MHz channels. Intel claims its Gigabit WiFi offers up to twice the download speed of standard 802.11ac, which has appeared on numerous Apollo Lake boards and systems, and up to 12 times the speed of 802.11n. Gigabit WiFi is even faster than Gigabit Ethernet, claims Intel.

According to AnandTech, these claimed speeds apply only if a product uses Intel’s 9560 AC (or Wireless-AC 9560) chip. Gemini Lake will continue to support slower and more affordable PCIe WiFi-ac controllers, however.

Gigabit WiFi improvements stem from new CNVi (Connectivity Integration Architecture) MAC blocks for WiFi, Bluetooth, and baseband modems. CNVi enables OEMs to use a “relatively inexpensive RF module that brings support for necessary wireless connectivity standards instead of buying a more expensive adapter,” says the publication.

Combined with new media enhancements, the faster WiFi will enable improve streaming from sites like YouTube and Netflix, says Intel. The company does not say much about graphics, however, noting only a new Local Adaptive Contrast Enhancement (LACE) technology that improves sunlight readability.

According to AnandTech, Gemini Lake has the same 18-EU Intel Gen9 LP graphics core as Apollo Lake, but with updated features that enable it to call it Intel UHD. These include an improved multimedia encoding/decoding engine borrowed from Kaby Lake that supports 4K HEVC and VP9 (8-bit and 10-bit) video, and a move up to a Gen10 display controller supporting HDMI 2.0 output and the aforementioned LACE.

AnandTech also notes that Gemini Lake uses a smaller new flip-chip FCBGA1090 package, so it’s not pin-compatible with Apollo Lake. This means that OEMs will need to build new boards rather than simply slot in the new SoCs.

 
Further information

The Intel Gemini Lake Pentium Silver and Celeron SoCs are sampling now, with products expected to ship starting in 1Q 2018. More information may be found in Intel’s Gemini Lake announcement and product page, which links to individual ARK pages.
 

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One response to “Intel launches Gemini Lake SoCs with “Gigabit WiFi””

  1. Blade RunnerUP says:

    “Gigabit WiFi is even faster than Gigabit Ethernet, claims Intel.” ?

    Not only is WiFi “never” going to be as fast as Ethernet, but WiFi will invariably always be a security risk, when compared to Ethernet, for obvious reasons.
    But hey, Intel also said their CPU’s never had any hardware security flaws in them, ehhhmmm.
    ;)

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