Intel’s 9th-gen mobile Core chips aim for the high end, rocking 8 cores at up to 5GHz speeds

Intel debuted six new 9th-gen mobile H-series Core chips on Tuesday—with its fastest, the Core i9-9980HK, soaring to a new high-water mark: 8 cores, 16 threads, and a whopping 5GHz clock speed, after boost. After launching its 9th-generation Core chips for desktop PCs last October, Intel has now brought that same capability to notebooks. Intel executives said systems based upon the 9th-gen chips are expected to debut shortly.

All the chips are based on the “Coffee Lake Refresh” (Coffee Lake-R) architecture, and all are fabricated on a 14nm process. Last year’s 8th-gen mobile Core chips topped out at 4.8GHz, and offered only 6 cores.   

Though theoretically anyone can benefit from the increased performance, Intel is aiming at two particular segments: professional content creators and gamers. Intel said it expects its 9th-gen Core i9-9980HK (8 cores/16 threads, 2.4GHz/5GHz turbo) to deliver up to 18 percent higher frames per second in games and 28 percent faster 4K video editing than the 8th-gen Core i9-8950HK (6 cores/12 threads, 2.9GHz/4.8GHz turbo). When performing general office tasks and web browsing, the chips can run in a low-power mode, with an “aspirational goal” of ten hours of battery life, or just an hour while gaming, executives said.

Price, performance, and power are the old battlefronts, though. The new way to win is via a platform, which is why you’ll hear notebook makers touting related technologies supported by the Intel 300-series chipsets, such as the H10 Optane Memory with SSD, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) communications, and support for up to 128GB of DDR4 memory.

What this means to you: For now, Intel’s 9th-gen mobile chips are targeting the sort of dazzing, high-end gaming notebooks most of us unfortunately can’t afford or can’t bear to lug around. If that’s the case, be patient: Separately, Intel announced a metric ton of new 9th-gen desktop processors, about six months after it announced its own Core i9-9900K. Many of the more mainstream mobile 9th-gen Core chips will likely debut in late summer or fall. Until then, read on to get an idea of what to expect.

intel 9th gen mobile core speeds and feeds Intel

Intel’s new 9th-gen mobile Core chips.

Intel 9th-gen mobile Core: The speeds

Intel is selling six new 9th-gen Core chips, two apiece within the Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9 families. All are 45-watt parts that support Optane Memory and two channels of 2,666MHz DDR4 memory. Intel didn’t release prices, as Intel’s mobile Core chips are sold directly to notebook PC makers.

  • Intel Core i9-9980HK: 2.4GHz base/5.0GHz turbo; 8 cores, 16 threads
  • Intel Core i9-9880H: 2.3GHz base/4.8GHz turbo; 8 cores, 16 threads
  • Intel Core i7-9850H: 2.6GHz base/4.6GHz turbo; 6 cores, 12 threads
  • Intel Core i7-9750H: 2.6GHz base/4.5GHz turbo; 6 cores, 12 threads
  • Intel Core i5-9400H: 2.5GHz base/4.3GHz turbo; 4 cores, 8 threads
  • Intel Core i5-9300H: 2.4GHz base/4.1GHz turbo; 4 cores, 8 threads

“If I want the fastest single-threaded performance or if I want to reach multi-threaded performance, this system can deliver the capability to do both,” Fredrik Hamberger, the general manager of premium and gaming laptops for Intel, told reporters.

It’s important to note that both of the Core i9 chips include Intel’s Thermal Velocity Boost, used to help elevate both chips to stratospheric speeds. TVB was first introduced with the 8th-gen mobile Core chips in 2018. It’s described as the ability to “opportunistically and automatically increase clock frequency above single-core and multi-core Intel Turbo Boost Technology frequencies based on how much the processor is operating below its maximum temperature and whether turbo power budget is available.”

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