Intel releases 27 Comet Lake vPro processors with mandatory hardware shield

Chip giant releases nine mobile and 18 desktop Core and Xeon chips under the VPro badge.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Intel

Intel has released its latest batch of 14-nanometre chips. In this case, it is a collection of Comet Lake CPUs consisting of mobile and 18 desktop chips -- a mix of Core and Xeon chips -- all bearing the vPro badge.

For this release of its 10th generation chips, Intel said it had made its previously optional hardware shield mandatory.

"We do a series of recommended and required specifications in order to be badged Intel vPro platform and with this round ... we're actually requiring that Intel hardware shield and the technologies under that are a requirement in order to get that badge."

"What we're doing is in the BIOS and firmware level, where Intel obviously has a unique position, we are providing additional layers of protection, we're essentially shrinking the area that would be vulnerable to cyber attacks," Intel GM and VP for business client platforms Stephanie Hallford said.

Hallford said Intel and Microsoft worked together so that Windows 10 and the vPro BIOS could protect systems while also adding the ability for the CPU to offload processes when under attack.

"It's also the BIOS itself, we have an ability to encrypt and protect additional parts of the system that are increasingly becoming vulnerable as cyber attackers get more creative," the GM said.

"In addition to the BIOS protection, and the memory encryption, and the communication between OSS and BIOS, we're adding our advanced threat detection. And what this allows is in the case of an attack, we are able to transfer many of the non-critical performance requirements over to the GPU.

"We're offloading the CPU, to allow the CPU to focus on those mission-critical system capabilities and investigations, at the same time, all of this is done without reducing the productivity of the system."

In terms of the silicon itself, Intel is releasing six H-series mobile chips that operate at 45 watts, and three U-series mobile chips that suck down 15 watts.

All the H-series Core chips are either i9, i7, and i5, have from four to eight cores with 8 to 16MB cache, and base frequencies in a range between 2.3GHz to 2.7GHz. A pair of Xeons are available with six or eight cores, 12 or 16MB of cache, and either 2.8GHz or 2.4GHz base frequencies.

The U-series is a dialled down affair, with two i7s and one i5 offered, with either four or six cores, 6 to 12MB cache, and base frequencies from 1.1GHz to 1.8GHz.

Image: Intel

For the desktop vPro offerings, which can use anywhere from 35 watts of power up to 125 watts, Intel is offering three 10-core, 20-thread i9 chips with 20MB of cache; three eight-core, 16-thread i7 chips with 16MB of cache; and five six-core, 12-thread i5 chips with 12MB of cache. Intel is also offering seven Xeon processors that have a combination of 10, eight, or six cores paired with the same cache size offered in the Core chips.

Intel is also boasting performance improvements of around 40%, but it is doing this comparison against three-year-old systems with only a quarter of the RAM of the modern system. When it completed a comparison against a five-year-old system, Intel gave the older system the same amount of RAM, but obviously with slower clock speeds, and the new chips were still only 44% faster on the benchmark.

Hallford said the next vPro releases would be based on its 10nm Tiger Lake architecture, and not the immediately Comet Lake-succeeding Ice Lake.

"We made some prioritisation calls in our product line decisions, and unfortunately, given some of our initial our initial decisions, we decided that we wanted to focus our Ice Lake technologies on the consumer side and make sure that we really shored up the security features on our vPro side," she said.

"Ice Lake was going to not be able to provide as much security, given much of our work had been built on other platforms. So we will not be offering it on Ice Lake. You will see our new Tiger Lake vPro as our next platform after Comet Lake."

The new Comet Lake vPro chips also include integrated Wi-Fi 6.

Last week, AMD announced its business laptop Ryzen Pro 4000 series of processors that use 15 watts. The Zen 2-based chips are expected to be available within the first half of the year.

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