Intel invents 'ultraportable gaming' laptops for CES 2021

The company's new 11th-generation H-series gaming processors allow for thinner, lighter laptops with better battery life and discrete graphics for your work-first gaming life.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
3 min read
Intel's Tiger Lake chip

Intel's Tiger Lake architecture finally lands in gaming laptops.


Intel's flipping its mobile gaming processor equation for CES 2021: This year's target is "ultraportable gaming," otherwise known as systems that prioritize portability and workday-long battery life over raw performance from behemoths that never leave your desk. But never fear, Intel also teased an 11th-gen power gaming processor, the Tiger Lake-H, promising desktop-level graphics on laptops and going up through a Core i9.

It's starting small, with three new 11th-gen Core H35 processors  -- Core i7-11375H Special Edition, i7-11370H and i5-11300H -- four core/eight thread CPUs with a 28-35 watt power draw to replace or supplement their current 35-45 watt 10th-gen predecessors. The "special" in Special Edition is Intel Turbo Boost 3.0, which allows the CPU to claim a peak single-core frequency of 5GHz compared to 4.8GHz for the not-so-special part. And that's the one Intel sees as its ultraportable flagship, though we'll see laptops from all kinds of makers, including Asus, MSI, HP, Acer, Dell and Lenovo.

The processors are built on Intel's Tiger Lake H35 10nm SuperFin architecture and process, which adds support for Thunderbolt 4, Intel Xe graphics and PCIe Gen 4 with Resizeable BAR. The latter allows the system to allocate an optimal amount of video memory for the CPU to use for graphics operations not otherwise run on the GPU. That means it takes less time to move the graphics data for rendering out to the display. It's similar to AMD Smart Access Memory, which debuted with the Radeon RX 6000 series desktop cards in October 2019.

By dropping to the lower power threshold, in conjunction with more power-optimizing 11th-gen technology, manufacturers can build thinner, lighter systems with discrete graphics, and without sacrificing as much performance as they might otherwise have had to. And because the lower end of the power envelope is 35 watts and not 28, you should still be able to play games on battery -- or at least play them better than before.

Watch this: HP's work laptops at CES 2021 are made for micro mobility

The H35 chips have only four cores compared with six in the 10th-gen midrange i7 -- Intel had to drop some cores to fit the chip into the same or smaller space -- but it also claims that it still performs well, especially when using AI. If not, there's always some tradeoff for laptop shrinkage.

Intel also teased its 11th-gen gaming PC processors (Rocket Lake-S), again, which the company says will deliver almost 20% better performance over their predecessors. Headlined by the Core i9-11900K, we should expect to see the initial parts by March. But the desktop CPU we're waiting for is based on Alder Lake, which will use an updated 10nm SuperFin process and use a hybrid architecture like a phone processor. That's currently slated for the second half of 2021.

But not everything is about play. Intel also announced that Chromebooks running on 11th-gen Core processors will be arriving by the end of March, and that means we'll be seeing Chromebooks bearing the Evo logo. As important, it brings Thunderbolt to Chromebooks, a big hole at the moment. 

It also rolled out new N-series Pentium Silver and Celeron processors, which have been ported over to 10nm. They're intended to give Chromebooks a power boost at education-friendly prices. The latter also benefit from some extra videoconferencing image processing.

And we've also gotten 11th-gen versions of the company's mobile CPUs, which support the security-first vPro platform, allowing manufacturers to finally embrace Intel's Evo specs for business laptops . Going to 11th-gen means upgraded integrated graphics and Wi-Fi 6/6E support, which ameliorates two of the pain points of their class, and improves AI acceleration.