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Intel Alder Lake-U review – The fine line between efficiency and not enough performance

Our measurements and the results of our tests clearly show that Alder Lake-U processors have a right to exist, but neither Intel nor laptop manufacturers make it easy for customers. This is due to several factors, because in addition to the very large number of Intel CPUs available, the manufacturer must narrow the consumption areas and thus better classify the different chip classes. It doesn’t make sense for the Core i7-1255U to power up to 50W, but the Core i7-1260P with only 25 or even 20W, which we’ve already seen (Samsung Galaxy Book2). Stricter regulations could prevent these problems altogether. For example, the U series CPUs may be rated in the 15-25W range, the P series from 25-40W, and the H series from 40W.

But netbook manufacturers are also to blame, because the mere ability of a processor in theory to consume up to 55 watts does not make sense in practice. Not only does the extra current result in more performance, but more fan activity. Here we have shown that there is hardly any performance loss with lower limits, but the user still benefits from lower emissions in daily use.

Intel gives laptop manufacturers a lot of freedom, which is why customers find it difficult to pre-estimate CPU performance. Alder Lake-U processors with two performance cores really make sense up to about 25W, after which you should install an Alder Lake-P chip directly. AMD’s U-series CPUs are significantly more efficient when all the cores are loaded, but are simply less available overall.

Compared to AMD (eg Ryzen 7 6800U), Intel has a performance advantage when only one core is loaded. However, AMD is usually ahead in multi-core tests, especially when looking at efficiency. Apple continues to play in a very different efficiency league with M1 and M2 CPUs, especially in single-core scenarios. AMD and Apple also have an advantage over the old Iris Xe Graphics G7 from Intel processors when it comes to the integrated GPU.

Intel will be releasing new Raptor Lake processors soon and we expect the first laptops to appear in the next few weeks, but mobile processors (U, P and H series) in particular saw a slight clock increase without any changes. The number of cores, integrated graphics and power limits remain the same. There are some optional additional features, but in terms of performance and efficiency, we’d expect only small improvements.