It was recently brought to our attention that three new Ice Lake CPUs were listed on Intel’s online ARK database of products: the Core i7-1060NG7, the Core i5-1030NG7, and the Core i3-1000NG4. These differ from the ‘consumer’ released products by having an ‘N’ in them, and specification-wise these CPUs have a slightly higher TDP along with a slightly higher base clock, as well as being in a smaller package. We reached out to Intel, but in the meantime we also noticed that the CPUs line up perfectly with what Apple is providing in its latest Macbook Air.

Intel’s Ice Lake family is the first generation of 10nm processors that the company has made widely available. We’ve covered Intel’s ups and downs with the 10nm process, and last year it launched Ice Lake as part of its 10th Generation Core family, focusing more on premium products that need graphics horsepower or AI acceleration. In the initial announcement, Intel stated that there would be nine different Ice Lake processors coming to market, however we learned that the lower-power parts would take longer to arrive.

These three new CPUs actually fall under that ‘lower power’ bracket, meaning they were meant to be coming out about this time, but are labelled differently to the processors initially announced. This is because these new CPUs are officially listed as ‘off-roadmap’, which is code for ‘not available to everyone’. Some OEMs, particularly the big ones like Apple, or sometimes HP and others, will make a request to Intel to develop a special version of their products just for them. This product is usually the same silicon as before, but binned differently, often to tighter constraints: it might differ in frequency, TDP, core count, or the way it is packaged. This more often happens in the server space, but can happen for notebooks as well, assuming you can order a larger amount.

Intel Ice Lake-Y Variants
AnandTech 1060N
G7
1060
G7
  1030N
G7
1030
G7
  1000N
G4
1000
G4
Cores / Threads 4 / 8 4 / 8   4 / 8 4 / 8   2 / 4 2 / 4
L3 Cache 8 MB 8 MB   6 MB 6 MB   4 MB 4 MB
Base Freq (GHz) 1.20 1.00   1.10 0.80   1.10 1.10
Turbo Freq (GHz) 3.80 3.80   3.50 3.50   3.20 3.20
TDP 10 W 9 W   10 W 9 W   9 W 9 W
LPDDR4X 3733 3733   3733 3733   3733 3733
GPU EUs 64 64   64 64   48 48
GPU Freq (MHz) 1100 1100   1050 1050   900 900
Package T5 T4   T5 T4   T5 T4

These new CPUs are different because they have an ‘N’ in the name. This translates, in the case of the Core i7, to +1W on the TDP, +200 MHz on the base frequency, and a much smaller package size. They are all classified as Iris Plus graphics, and the G7 indicates 64 EUs while the G4 indicates 48 EUs. Interestingly the new CPUs have Intel’s TXT and Optane Memory Support disabled. Increasing the TDP by 11% and the base frequency by 20% is probably very reasonable – ultimately the TDP affects more for the sustained performance, for which customers that want custom versions are probably optimizing for quite well.

Another aspect is the smaller package size. Intel for the Ice CPUs traditionally has two packages - a Type 3 at 50x25mm, and a Type 4 at 26.5 x 18.5 mm. With Type 4, the CPU and IO chips are close together and have a shim to stiffen the package. This new package seems to be off-roadmap as well, without the shim - a 'Type 5' package if you will. The smaller package also helps in designing the system, leaving more room for other components. Arguably this is the biggest change with these CPUs, reducing the package from 26.5 mm by 18.5 mm to 22.0 mm by 16.5 mm, a 26% size reduction.

We suspect these are the CPUs in the most recent updates to Apple’s Macbook Air line. Apple historically does not list exactly which processors it uses in its devices, but the website shows the following:

These specifications line up. Two of the three CPUs already have Geekbench benchmark results submitted to the online database.

When we approached Intel asking what these CPUs were, and the official line is:

“The ‘N’ notes a slightly differentiated, customer-specific version of those SKUs. Those slight differences require a signifier for our internal SKU management and ordering systems. The N is not a new subfamily or directly connected to a specific set of features, for example.”

This goes in line with what we stated above about customer-specific binning. Apple will no doubt be ordering a few million of these CPUs, so Intel is prepared to add an extra binning step just for the business.

Related Reading

POST A COMMENT

38 Comments

View All Comments

  • MarcusMo - Thursday, March 26, 2020 - link

    Isn’t the base spec for the X1 Carbon or the XPS13 also 256GB? So perhaps some other lands as well. Reply
  • Adi_Nemesis - Thursday, March 26, 2020 - link

    I criticize Apple when they're wrong, and they're wrong often, but this is just blind bashing.

    Show me one comparable premium Ultrabook around $1000 that comes with more than 256GB base storage. I think the new MBA is very well priced for a premium thin and light laptop.
    Reply
  • id4andrei - Thursday, March 26, 2020 - link

    All comparable ultrabooks start with a proper 15W CPU. Apple sells a 1000$ compromise with Y chips. They are doing it to protect the 13" mbp. That's the sole purpose of the air. A dual core 9w i3 for a grand is a joke. Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, March 26, 2020 - link

    The lower wattage processor also offsets the move to the retina screen though. If you want 15W + this weight/battery size, you're probably looking at 1080p.

    Does Apple give the most for the money, absolutely not, no one here would argue that, but it is, finally, a well rounded package.
    Reply
  • amb9800 - Thursday, March 26, 2020 - link

    Not at all. Dell's XPS 13 is available with even the 6-core Comet Lake chips in a lighter form factor, with a bigger battery and much higher resolution screen to boot. MS has been shipping the Surface Pro for the last 7 years with 15W chips in a much lighter package and higher res screen. Lots of other examples around. Reply
  • id4andrei - Thursday, March 26, 2020 - link

    Tipoo, like amb said.... Surface is giving u a 15W fanless i5 that was praised on this website. Stop defending Apple on this. Apple should've kept the 15W setup that made their past air the best ultrabook. Now it is a joke. A 9W CPU for a grand doesn't cut it. Reply
  • coreai - Thursday, March 26, 2020 - link

    A video from Austin on YouTube showed that the chip initially draws higher wattage like most intel chips then after a few seconds starts throttling it’s power and frequency to stay near the 10W mark. An old Linus video shows that sufficiently cooling the 12 inch MacBook made it perform better. I wonder if doing something similar like putting a chunk of aluminium heat sink connected might show better performance on the new air such that it can close the gap between a 15w chip and an 10-11w chip (it draws 11w stable) and people might consider the cheaper Air over Pro since they perform very similar so Apple is artificially throttling the air by giving it just enough but poor cooling to keep that gap wide enough. Apple is capable of this. Reply
  • colinstalter - Friday, March 27, 2020 - link

    Apple has been getting custom chips from intel for YEARS. Had a professor back in engineering undergrad who worked for Dell (or HP or someone, can't remember), and he complained that Apple would always buy Intel's top binned chips, and that they weren't selectable by him. It is funny that Apple is considered a "small" PC maker yet Intel will make them custom chips for laptops and desktop, when no other OEMs seem to get anything custom. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now