After years of rumors, Intel's "Meteor Lake" processors will finally be arriving in PCs on December 14th. Now dubbed "Core Ultra" as part of the company's new naming scheme, they'll be the first chips built on the "Intel 4" (7nm) architecture, as well as the first to include a built-in Neural Processing Unit (NPU) to accelerate AI performance. In almost every way, the Core Ultra chips demonstrate where Intel is headed next: Building efficient-yet-powerful chips that can keep up with modern AI demands.
At this point, Intel appears to be squarely focused on laptops with Core Ultra chips. The company is rumored to be refreshing its Raptor Lake CPUs for desktops later this year. While it may be surprising to see a notebook chip taking the lead, the strategy makes a certain amount of sense. Meteor Lake's efficiency push is at odds with what desktop users actually want: As much freaking power as possible. So for now, at least, the company is better off splitting its 14th-gen CPU families.
Core Ultra is practically a showcase of Intel's latest innovations. It's built on the company's FOVEROS 3D packaging; it features entirely new P and E-cores, with a focus on being as power efficient as possible; graphics will be up to twice as fast when it comes to performance per watt; and in addition to sporting an NPU, it can also leverage its GPU and CPU for other AI tasks. Funny enough, it won't support the company's recently announced Thunderbolt 5 standard, instead Core Ultra will feature Thunderbolt 4 and PCIe Gen5.
We're still waiting for final details on Intel's final Core Ultra models, as well as the company's plans for 14th-gen desktop chips. But for now, at least, we've got plenty of reasons to be excited about next year's batch of laptops.