Leaks hint Intel is working on quad-cores for lightweight, 13-inch laptops

Retail listings for an upcoming refresh of the Acer Swift 3 suggest that Intel may have plans to release a new line of low-power quad-core i5 processors before the end of the year.

According to PC Perspective, the retail listings state clearly that the processor is a quad-core Intel Core i5-8250U. That model number suggests it’s not just a new quad-core i5, but a new 8th-generation processor.

This new processor is a bit of an oddity. To discuss why, let’s have a look at its name. The i5-8250U name tells us a lot about this processor. First, that it’s an i5, that it’s part of Intel’s 8th-generation lineup, and the U at the end means its a low-power chip — the kind we see in razor-thin laptops like the Acer Swift 3.

Now that we know it’s a quad-core chip and a low-power chip, things start to get interesting. Currently, Intel Core i5 and i7 processors of the U-variety are only available in dual-core configurations. Some have hyperthreading, which means they can handle a number of processing threads equal to double the number of cores they have — in this case four. But none have four physical cores.

But this new i5-8250U has not only four physical cores, but it also has hyperthreading. That makes it unlike any other U-series processor on the market today.

After doing some digging, PC Perspective found a number of results in the Geekbench database for the i5-8250U, from upcoming laptops like the Dell XPS 13 9360. According to the Geekbench results, the quad-core i5-8520U with hyperthreading is capable of outperforming a current generation i5-7200U in multi-core performance by about 54 percent.

Its single-core performance is about the same, though, so it’s a boost you’ll only notice when you’re doing some serious multi-tasking or running processor-intensive applications.

That’s beside the point, though. Sure, there are laptops out there with Intel Core i5 and i7 chips that can run circles around this i5-8250U, but they all use a lot more power. The only other quad-core i5 — with hyperthreading — on the market is a 65-watt chip. The exact power target of the i5-8250U is unknown, but its performance and name suggest it’ll be substantially less. That should allow for a new breed of thin, yet powerful, workstation.

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