Intel finally details its 12th-gen P- and U-series chips for ultrabooks and foldables

Intel finally details its 12th-gen P- and U-series chips for ultrabooks and foldables

At CES this year, Intel’s focus was on chips for gaming laptops, but it did unveil the SKUs of its new 12th-gen P- and U-series processors, which are going to be in new ultrabooks, convertibles, foldables, and more. To be clear, things are changing in the world of Intel mobile processors.

“Following the launch of the fastest mobile processor for gaming, we’re now expanding our 12th Gen Intel Core processor family to deliver a massive leap forward in performance for thin-and-light laptops,” said Chris Walker, Intel’s corporate vice present and general manager of Mobility Client Platforms. “From the ultra-thin form factors to enthusiast grade performance in a sleek design, we’re providing consumers and businesses with leadership performance and cutting-edge technologies.”

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Introducing the new 28W P-series

For years and years now, Intel has had two main options for laptops. There was the H-series for powerful devices like gaming laptops and mobile workstations, and there was the U-series for ultrabooks and convertibles. For a time, there was also a Y-series for fanless devices, but that’s since been folded into the U-series.

U-series processors were dual core right through the seventh-generation, while H-series processors were quad-core. From eighth- through 11th-gen, U-series chips were quad-core, while H-series had even higher core counts. But Intel changes as it’s pushed to by competitors, with AMD selling Ryzen processors with high core counts and Qualcomm having better power management with its big.LITTLE architecture.

With Intel 12th-gen, it’s introducing the P-series with the 12th generation, and the reason it’s so notable is because it’s taking the place of U-series in a lot of devices. While many premium laptops have been U-series, devices like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 series, HP Elite Dragonfly, and Dell XPS 13 Plus will all ship with P-series processors. In other words, U-series is going to be a lot more mainstream than premium, whereas previously it served both tiers. Of course, that also depends on the device, as ultra-thin devices will still use U9 chips.

Processor Number Processor Cores Processor Threads Performance Cores Efficient Cores L3 Cache Max Turbo Frequency (P-cores) Max Turbo Frequency (E-cores) Base Frequency (P-cores) Base Frequency (E-cores) Processor Graphics Max Graphics Frequency Processor Base Power Max Turbo Power Intel vPro
Core i7-1280P 14C 20T 6P 8E 24MB 4.8GHz 3.6GHz 1.8GHz 1.3GHz 96EU 1.45GHz 28W 64W Enterprise
Core i7-1270P 12C 16T 4P 8E 18MB 4.8GHz 3.5GHz 2.2GHz 1.6GHz 96EU 1.4GHz 28W 64W Enterprise
Core i7-1260P 12C 16T 4P 8E 18MB 4.7GHz 3.4GHz 2.1GHz 1.5GHz 96EU 1.4GHz 28W 64W Essentials
Core i5-1250P 12C 16T 4P 8E 12MB 4.4GHz 3.3GHz 1.7GHz 1.2GHz 80EU 1.4GHz 28W 64W Enterprise
Core i5-1240P 12C 16T 4P 8E 12MB 4.4GHz 3.3GHz 1.7GHz 1.2GHz 80EU 1.3GHz 28W 64W Essentials
Core i3-1220P 10C 12T 2P 8E 12MB 4.4GHz 3.3GHz 1.5GHz 1.1GHz 64EU 1.1GHz 28W 64W

As you can see, these new P-series chips not only have a 28W TDP, but they also come with up to 14 cores and 20 thread. In  the top-end model, the Core i7-1280P, there are six P-cores (performance cores), and all SKUs have eight E-cores (efficiency cores). Only the P-cores are Hyperthreaded.

As you can see, these still come with Iris Xe graphics that max out at 96 EUs, although that’s actually expected to double with the next generation. You can connect to up to four 4K displays, and for memory support, you’ll be able to get laptops with DDR5-4800, DDR4-3200, LPDDR5-5200, or LPDDR4x-4267. Obviously, you’re still going to see a lot of machines with older memory, since supply issues are making it expensive DDR5 and LPDDR5.

The U-series is what you’ll find in new PCs with foldable displays

With the P-series being the star of the show, it’s worth noting that the U-series still has an important role to play. Once again, there are two tiers, although they’re not called UP3 and UP4 anymore. They’re just called U15 and U9, named after the wattage. These are the U15 SKUs:

Processor Number Processor Cores Processor Threads Performance Cores Efficient Cores L3 Cache Max Turbo Frequency (P-cores) Max Turbo Frequency (E-cores) Base Frequency (P-cores) Base Frequency (E-cores) Processor Graphics Max Graphics Frequency Processor Base Power Max Turbo Power Intel vPro
Core i7-1265U 10C 12T 2P 8E 12MB 4.8GHz 3.6GHz 1.8GHz 1.3GHz 96EU 1.25GHz 15W 55W Enterprise
Core i7-1255U 10C 12T 2P 8E 12MB 4.7GHz 3.5GHz 1.7GHz 1.2GHz 96EU 1.25GHz 15W 55W Essentials
Core i5-1245U 10C 12T 2P 8E 12MB 4.4GHz 3.3GHz 1.6GHz 1.2GHz 80EU 1.2GHz 15W 55W Enterprise
Core i5-1235U 10C 12T 2P 8E 12MB 4.4GHz 3.3GHz 1.3GHz 0.9GHz 80EU 1.2GHz 15W 55W Essentials
Core i3-1215U 6C 8T 2P 4E 10MB 4.4GHz 3.3GHz 1.2GHz 0.9GHz 64EU 1.1GHz 15W 55W
Pentium 8505 5C 6T 1P 4E 8MB 4.4GHz 3.3GHz 1.2GHz 0.9GHz 48EU 1.1GHz 15W 55W
Celeron 7305 5C 6T 1P 4E 8MB 1.1GHz 0.9GHz 48EU 1.1GHz 15W 55W

These are the U9 SKUs:

Processor Number Processor Cores Processor Threads Performance Cores Efficient Cores L3 Cache Max Turbo Frequency (P-cores) Max Turbo Frequency (E-cores) Base Frequency (P-cores) Base Frequency (E-cores) Processor Graphics Max Graphics Frequency Processor Base Power Max Turbo Power Intel vPro
Core i7-1260U 10C 12T 2P 8E 12MB 4.7GHz 3.5GHz 1.1GHz 0.8GHz 96EU 0.95GHz 9W 29W Enterprise
Core i7-1250U 10C 12T 2P 8E 12MB 4.7GHz 3.5GHz 1.1GHz 0.8GHz 96EU 0.95GHz 9W 29W Essentials
Core i5-1240U 10C 12T 2P 8E 12MB 4.4GHz 3.3GHz 1.1GHz 0.8GHz 80EU 0.9GHz 9W 29W Enterprise
Core i5-1230U 10C 12T 2P 8E 12MB 4.4GHz 3.3GHz 1GHz 0.7GHz 80EU 0.85GHz 9W 29W Essentials
Core i3-1210U 6C 8T 2P 4E 10MB 4.4GHz 3.3GHz 1GHz 0.7GHz 64EU 0.85GHz 9W 29W
Pentium 8500 5C 6T 1P 4E 8MB 4.4GHz 3.3GHz 1GHz 0.7GHz 48EU 0.8GHz 9W 29W
Celeron 7300 5C 6T 1P 4E 8MB 1GHz 0.7GHz 48EU 0.8GHz 9W 29W

You’re going to find the U9 SKUs in devices like ultra-thin laptops without fans and foldable display laptops. With the only foldable laptop that’s ever shipped, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold, it came with Intel’s Lakefield processor. Lakefield was Intel’s first attempt at a hybrid architecture, something it’s going all-in on with 12th-gen. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very good, so 12th-gen U9 should make a big difference in that area.

The two tiers are definitely different though. Even though there are only two P-cores in most U-series SKUs, U15 seems more similar to P-series in what it supports, like all four memory options, four Thunderbolt 4 ports, 2×4 PCIe Gen4, and more. U9 supports LPDDR4x and LPDDR5 (unsurprisingly), and only two Thunderbolt 4 ports, along with 1×4 PCIe Gen4.

Speeds and feeds

Honestly, most of what we’re seeing here is stuff that we already knew from the CES announcement. This time around though, Intel broke out the benchmarks.

All of the tests directly compare the new Core i7-1280P with the Core i7-1195G7, showing percentage improvements. While Intel also showed other processors on a graph, it didn’t provide any specific scores on most of the tests.

First of all, Intel is promising 70% better multithreaded performance with the Core i7-1280P, gen over gen. While that number is compared to a Core i7-1195G7, the company also demonstrated outperforming an M1 (a MacBook Air with 16GB RAM), an M1 Pro (14-inch MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM), and an AMD Ryzen 7 5800U (a Lenovo Yoga 14C).

Next up is 3D rendering, where Intel promises 50% less time than a Core i7-1195G7. In this test, both the M1 Pro and the Intel Core i9-11980HK outperformed the Core i7-1280P. The Ryzen 7 5800U did not. The test used Blender BMW as a benchmark.

According to WebXPRT 4 in Chrome, the Core i7-1280P gets 17% better performance. It was followed by the Core i7-1265U, which also beat out the Core i7-1195G7, and then that was followed by the Ryzen 7 5800U, M1 Pro, and M1, in that order.

Next up, it has a 30% improvement in photo editing, according to PugetBench Photoshop. It’s followed by the M1 Pro, Core i7-1265U, and M1, in that order. Then there’s the Core i7-1195G7 that it’s being compared to, followed by the Ryzen 7 5800U.

In CrossMark, the Core i7-1280P beat out the Core i7-1195G7 by 20%, and it was followed by the Core i7-1265U and the M1 Pro. Behind the Core i7-1195G7 is the M1 and the Ryzen 7 5800U. In productivity, creativity, and responsiveness tests, the Core i7-1280P came out on top be 12%, 27%, and 22%, respectively.

It’s about time

It’s been about a year and a half since Intel introduced new U-series processors. Interestingly, U-series was the first of Intel’s 11th-gen processors to launch, followed by H-series and S-series desktop chips. With 12th-gen, S-series and H-series came first, so we’ve actually seen two generations of those since the last time we got new processors for thin and light laptops and convertibles.

That’s why it’s been so long since we’ve seen new flagship laptops like the HP Spectre x360 14, the Dell XPS 13, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 series, and more. In fact, we’ve already seen a whole bunch of laptops that use these chips get announced at CES. That includes a round of ThinkPads, a new Dell XPS 13 Plus, and more.

Intel says that there are 250 new 12th-gen P- and U-series PCs coming this year, with over 100 of them being Evo certified. These will start shipping in March, and they’ll be coming from Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, LG, MSI, NEC, Samsung, and more.

About author

Rich Woods
Rich Woods

Managing Editor for XDA Computing. I've been covering tech from smartphones to PCs since 2013. If you see me at a trade show, come say hi and let me ask you weird questions about why you use the tech you use.

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