Intel 12th-gen P-series vs U-series CPUs for laptops: What are the key differences?
Intel followed up its 12th-gen Alder Lake desktop parts with the new mobile CPUs for laptops at CES 2022. Not only are these new mobile chips faster than the previous-gen processors, but they also carry the same new hybrid architecture using dedicated Performance (P-cores) and Efficient (E-cores). This performance hybrid architecture, in case you are wondering, is similar to ARM. The P-cores handle the task at hand, while E-cores manage the background applications and use substantially less power.
Intel breaks its 12th-gen Alder Lake mobile chips into three main categories:
- H-series: For the 45W workhorse and prosumer enthusiasts notebooks.
- P-series: For the performance thin and light laptops.
- U-series: For next-gen ultralight laptops and foldables.
While Intel’s CES 2022 keynote mainly focused on the 45W H-series designs, there’s a lot happening this time in the ultraportable low-powered CPU space too. So in this article, we’re going to take a look at the comparison between Intel 12th-gen P-series vs U-series mobile CPUs for laptops to find out the key differences between the two lineups:
Understanding the product name: P-series vs U-series
We’re used to Intel typically addressing the ultraportable laptop chips as its U-series processors, meaning all processors powering these notebooks have U in the product name. These processors scale starting with dual-cores 9W chips, all the way up to quad-core 28W chips based on the configuration. Well, Intel is changing that with the 12th-gen Alder Lake mobile chips.
We now have the Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake P-series with 28W processors with BGA Type3 or UP3 package size. These processors will be powering the performance thin and light notebooks in 2022 and beyond. Laptops like the new Dell XPS 13 Plus will be powered by the P-series processors. Be sure to check out our Dell XPS 13 Plus hands-on article while you are here. It’s a pretty cool laptop with a very unique design and some other interesting features.
There are six P-series processor designs in total ranging from a Core i7 to Core i3 with different hybrid core configurations. These processors all have the “P” suffix in their name and you’ll see a lot of them in the high-end ultrabook market. We suggest you keep an eye on the ultrabook designs from manufacturers including HP, Lenovo, Dell, and even Microsoft, as we expect one of these P-series chips to end up in one of the new Surface laptops sooner or later.
The U-series, on the other hand, has both 9W and 15W processors. Starting with the low power processors at 9W, these are essentially the same as the ultra-low-power Tiger Lake processors that use BGA Type4 or UP4 Intel design. This particular design combines both the CPU and the chipset on the same package, and it’s the smallest package that Intel offers right now. At 15W, we have a design that’s very similar to the older U-series processors that we’re familiar with.
These U-series processors will directly be replacing the older 12-28W chips like the Core i7-1185G7, for instance. We’re essentially seeing a fundamental change in the way Intel is classifying its low-powered mobile processors in the 9/15/28W power brackets. These processors will no longer be identified with G7, G4, or G1 suffixes. Instead, Intel is now signifying them with just P or U, based on the power. We think this is a great change as it makes things a lot easier to understand.
P-series processors will be seen inside high-performance thin and light notebooks while more modern thin & lights notebooks and smaller devices such as foldable will get U-series. It’ll either be a 15W UP3 or a 9W UP4 design based on the form factor and the requirement. All the U-series chips have the suffix “U” in their names, but you can distinguish between the 15W and 9W chips easily as Intel is putting ‘5’ as the last digit in every 15W processor, while it’s ‘0’ in every 9W chip.
The difference in Hybrid core configurations
Starting off with the P-series, we’re looking at the UP3 form-factor with larger, more powerful silicon than the U-series. The P-series chips have up to six P-cores and eight E-cores, along with a 96EU graphics engine. The Core i7-1280P is at the top of the stack and we’re looking at a peak turbo frequency of 4.8GHz for this one along with a max turbo power consumption of 64W. There are two other Core i7 parts in the P-series but they only get four P-cores instead of six but have a higher base frequency on both P as well as E-cores. This essentially makes the Core i7-1280P the cream of the crop in the low-powered space, and we expect to see it inside a lot of ultrabooks.
The mid-range Core i5 processors in the P-series also have the same 4+8 core configurations as most of the Core i7 parts. However, we’re looking at slightly slower peak turbo frequency, among other things. Lastly, there’s also the Core i3-1220P, which we think is more in line with the U-series processors. But this one’s rated for 28W power draw which means it’s going to churn out slightly better consistent performance and won’t be as efficient as the U-series chips at 15W.
Here’s a quick look at the Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake P-series 28W processors:
|Specification||Intel Core i7-1280P||Intel Core i7-1270P||Intel Core i7-1260P||Intel Core i5-1250P||Intel Core i5-1240P||Intel Core i3-1220P|
|Cores||14 (6P + 8E)||12 (4P + 8E)||12 (4P + 8E)||12 (4P + 8E)||12 (4P + 8E)||10 (2P + 8E)|
|Base Frequency||1.8GHz (P-core) | 1.3GHz (E-core)||2.2GHz (P-core) | 1.6GHz (E-core)||2.1GHz (P-core) | 1.5GHz (E-core)||1.7GHz (P-core) | 1.2GHz (E-core)||1.7GHz (P-core) | 1.2GHz (E-core)||1.5GHz (P-core) | 1.1GHz (E-core)|
|Max Turbo Frequency||4.8GHz (P-core) | 3.6GHz (E-core)||4.8GHz (P-core) | 3.5GHz (E-core)||4.7GHz (P-core) | 3.4GHz (E-core)||4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core)||4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core)||4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core)|
|Max Turbo Power||64W||64W||64W||64W||64W||64W|
The 15W U-series chips, as we mentioned earlier, are similar to the traditional U-series processors that we’re familiar with from the Tiger Lake series. These chips also have the same UP3 design as the P-series chips. This allows the OEMs to make a UP3 laptop and equip it with either a P-series or a 15W U-series processor. Think of it as the same laptop having different configurations based on the pricing.
The 15W U-series chips have two P-cores and up to eight E-cores, along with 96 EUs for the graphics. Replacing the existing crops of 15W Tiger Lake chips, it’ll be interesting to see how the new 15W U-series processors will perform as they now have fewer performance cores.
Moving further down the line, we have low-powered 9W U-series chips that top out at two P-cores and eight E-cores along with up to a 96EU graphics engine in the silicon. These 9W processors, as we mentioned earlier, use UP4 design which means they’ll be powering an entirely different category of devices. We’re expecting these chips to be fitted inside the next-gen form-factors like foldables.
When it comes to the U-series processor family, we have the Core i7-1265U on the top with two performance cores and eight efficiency cores. We’re looking at a turbo frequency of up to 4.8Ghz and a 96EU graphics engine running at up to 1.25GHz for this chip. We also have the Core i5 and the Core i3 with appropriate reductions in clock speeds and execution units.
The U-series also has the Pentium and Celeron processors that are worth taking a look at. These chips have a five-core configuration with half the P-cores, E-cores, and even execution units. The 9W U-series chips are also the same, except we’re looking at lower base frequencies along with a max turbo power consumption of only 29W.
Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake U-series 15W processors:
|Specification||Intel Core i7-1265U||Intel Core i7-1255U||Intel Core i5-1245U||Intel Core i5-1235U||Intel Core i3-1215U||Intel Pentium 8505||Intel Celeron 7305|
|Cores||10 (2P + 8E)||10 (2P + 8E)||10 (2P + 8E)||10 (2P + 8E)||6 (2P + 4E)||5 (1P + 4E)||5 (1P + 4E)|
|Base Frequency||1.8GHz (P-core) | 1.3GHz (E-core)||1.7GHz (P-core) | 1.2GHz (E-core)||1.6GHz (P-core) | 1.2GHz (E-core)||1.3GHz (P-core) | 0.90GHz (E-core)||1.2GHz (P-core) | 0.90GHz (E-core)||1.2GHz (P-core) | 0.90GHz (E-core)||1.1GHz (P-core) | 0.90GHz (E-core)|
|Max Turbo Frequency||4.8GHz (P-core) | 3.6GHz (E-core)||4.7GHz (P-core) | 3.5GHz (E-core)||4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core)||4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core)||4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core)||4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core)||N/A|
|Max Turbo Power||55W||55W||55W||55W||55W||55W||55W|
Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake U-series 9W processors:
|Specification||Intel Core i7-1260U||Intel Core i7-1250U||Intel Core i5-1240U||Intel Core i5-1230U||Intel Core i3-1210U||Intel Pentium 8500||Intel Celeron 7300|
|Cores||10 (2P + 8E)||10 (2P + 8E)||10 (2P + 8E)||10 (2P + 8E)||6 (2P + 4E)||5 (1P + 4E)||5 (1P + 4E)|
|Base Frequency||1.1GHz (P-core) | 0.8GHz (E-core)||1.1GHz (P-core) | 0.8GHz (E-core)||1.1GHz (P-core) | 0.8GHz (E-core)||1GHz (P-core) | 0.7GHz (E-core)||1GHz (P-core) | 0.7GHz (E-core)||1GHz (P-core) | 0.7GHz (E-core)||1GHz (P-core) | 0.7GHz (E-core)|
|Max Turbo Frequency||4.7GHz (P-core) | 3.5GHz (E-core)||4.7GHz (P-core) | 3.5GHz (E-core)||4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core)||4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core)||4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core)||4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core)||N/A|
|Max Turbo Power||29W||29W||29W||29W||29W||29W||29W|
P-series vs U-series: Memory configurations & Other key differences
When it comes to the memory configurations, all the P-series processors support LPDDR4-4267 and LPDDR5-5200 as well as DDR4-3200 and DDR5-4800. This allows the OEMs to fine-tune the memory configuration and even have different SKUs that differ in terms of memory. On the U-series side of things, only the more powerful 15W chips have support for both DDR and LPDDR configurations. The 9W processors only support LPDDR4-4267 and LPDDR5-5200.
Support for DDR, as you probably already guessed, also means double the memory capacity. This means the 9W U-series chips top out at 64GB of LPDDR4/LPDDR5 memory, while the 15W and the 28W chips support up to 128GB DDR4/DDR5. Again, this makes sense because these processors have a different form factor and will be able to take advantage of more memory.
Another interesting thing about the 12th-gen Alder Lake P-series mobile processors is that they also support Intel’s Turbo Boost Max 3.0. This means, one of the P-cores in these chips can turbo up higher than others. The max turbo frequency depends on the configuration of the chip. The Intel Core i7-1280P, for instance, can turbo to 5.0GHz instead of topping out at just 4.8GHz.
Both the 28W P-series and the 15W U-series share a lot of the same features due to the same package design. The 9W U-series chips, on the other hand, have a smaller package and they largely differ from the other two. Here’s a quick look at some of the key differences between the two:
|28W P-series & 15W U-series||9W U-series|
|50x25x1.3mm package||28.5x19x1.1mm package|
|LP4x, LP5, DDR4, DDR5||LP4x, LP5|
|4x Thunderbolt 4||2x Thunderbolt 4|
|2×4 PCIe Gen 4||1×4 PCIe Gen 4|
|X12 PCIe Gen 3||x10 PCIe Gen 3|
|10x USB 2, 4x USB 3||6x USB 2, 4x USB 3|
|WiFi 6E (Gig+)||WiFi 6E (Gig+)|
|x2 SATA 3.0||N/A|
Intel 12th-gen P-series vs U-series mobile chips: Final Thoughts
Intel has managed to show a strong presence in the thin and light laptop space with its 11th-gen Tiger Lake mobile parts. While AMD also has competing chips for this space, we’re yet to get our hands on many of these new machines to see if those chips from Team Red really are any threat to Intel in the thin and light and other low-powered form-factors. It’s also worth pointing out that Intel’s EVO platform offers big benefits and things are looking more promising than ever as Intel now has an Evo spec for foldable-display PCs too.
We’ll definitely have more to talk about these new chips and their performance once they end up in our hands for some in-house testing. So keep an eye on this space as we try to update it with more info and analysis from our testing. In the meantime, be sure to check out our Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake hub to learn everything there is to know about Intel’s new processors. It also includes the powerful desktop chips that are already a part of our best CPUs list. You can also check out our updated list of the best laptops collection to see which one’s worth buying in 2022.