Last week Intel launched their Tiger Lake-H family of laptop processors. Aimed at the larger 14-inch and above laptops, this processor family is Intel’s newest offering for the high-performance laptop market, stepping in above Intel’s mobility-focused U and Y series of chips. Based on the same Tiger Lake architecture that we first became familiar with last year, Tiger Lake-H is bigger and better (at least where the CPU is concerned), offering up to 8 CPU cores and other benefits like additional PCIe lanes. Overall, Intel’s H-series chips have long served as the performance backbone of their laptop efforts, and with Tiger Lake-H they are looking to continue that tradition.

While last week was Tiger Lake-H’s official launch, as has become increasingly common for laptop launches, the embargoes for the launch information and for hardware reviews have landed on separate dates. So, while we were able to take about the platform last week, it’s only today that we’re able to share with you our data on TGL-H – and our evaluation on whether it lives up to Intel’s claims as well as how it stacks up to the competition.

Like Intel’s other laptop chips, Tiger Lake-H has multiple facets, with the company needing to balance CPU performance, GPU performance, and power consumption, all while ensuring it’s suitable to manufacture on Intel’s revised 10nm “SuperFin” process. Balancing all of these elements is a challenge in and of itself, never mind the fact that arch-rival AMD is looking to compete with their own Zen 3 architecture-based Ryzen 5000 Mobile (Cezanne) APUs.

Intel Tiger Lake-H Consumer
AnandTech Cores
i9-11980HK 8C/16T - 2.6 3.3 5.0* 4.9 4.5 24 MB 32 1450
i9-11900H 8C/16T 2.1 2.5 - 4.9* 4.8 4.4 24 MB 32 1450
i7-11800H 8C/16T 1.9 2.3 - 4.6 4.5 4.2 24 MB 32 1450
i5-11400H 6C/12T 2.2 2.7 - 4.5 4.3 4.1 12 MB 16 1450
i5-11260H 6C/12T 2.1 2.6 - 4.4 4.2 4.0 12 MB 16 1400
*Turbo Boost Max 3.0

Intel’s Reference Design Laptop: Core i9-11980HK Inside

For our Tiger Lake-H performance review, Intel has once again sent over one of their reference design laptops. As with the Tiger Lake-U launch last year, these reference design laptops are not retail laptops in and of themselves, but more of an advanced engineering sample designed to demonstrate the performance of the underlying hardware. In this specific case, the BIOS identifies that the laptop was assembled by MSI.

Wanting to put their best foot forward in terms of laptop performance, Intel’s TGL-H reference design laptop is, as you’d imagine, a rather high-end system. The 16-inch laptop is based around Intel’s best TGL-H part, the Core i9-11980HK, which offers 8 Willow Cove architecture CPU cores with SMT, for a total of 16 threads. This processor can turbo as high as 5.0GHz on its favored cores, a bit behind Intel’s previous-generation Comet Lake-H CPUs, but keeping clockspeeds close while making up the difference on IPC.

Unfortunately, their desire to put their best foot forward means that Intel has configured the CPU in this system to run at 65W, rather than the more typical 45W TDP of most high-end laptops. 65W is a valid mode for this chip, so strictly speaking Intel isn’t juicing the chip, but the bulk of the Tiger Lake-H lineup is intended to run at a more lap-friendly 45W. This gives the Intel system an innate advantage in terms of performance, since it has more TDP headroom to play with.

Intel Reference Design: Tiger Lake-H
CPU Intel Core i9-11980HK
8 Cores, 16 Threads

2600 MHz Base (45W)
3300 MHz Base (65W)
5000 MHz Turbo 2C
4500 MHz Turbo nT
GPU Integrated: Xe-LP Graphics
32 Execution Units, up to 1450 MHz
Discrete: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop
30 SMs, up to 1703MHz
DRAM 32 GB DDR4-3200 CL22
Storage 2x OEM Phison E16 512GB SSD (NVMe PCIe 4.0 x4)
Display 16-inch 2560x1600
2x USB-A
Wi-Fi Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E + BT5.2 Adapter
Power Mode 65 W
(Mostly tested at 45W)

Meanwhile the focus on CPU performance with TGL-H does come at a cost to integrated GPU performance. TGL-H parts include Intel’s Xe-LP GPU, but with only 32 EUs instead of the 96 found on high-end Tiger Lake-U systems. With TGL-H, Intel is expecting these systems to be bundled with discrete GPUs, so they don’t dedicate nearly as much die space to an integrated GPU that may not get used much anyhow. To that end, the reference system comes with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop graphics adapter as well, which is paired with its own 6GB of GDDR6.

Rounding out the package, the system comes with 32GB of DDR4-3200 installed. Storage is provided by a pair of Phison E16-based OEM drives, allowing Intel to show off the benefits of PCIe 4.0 connectivity for SSDs. Finally, Wi-Fi connectivity is also Intel-powered, using the company’s new AX210 adapter, which offers Wi-Fi 6E + BT5.2 on a single M.2 adapter. It’s worth noting that the AX210 is a fully discrete adapter, so it doesn’t leverage TGL-H’s integrated (CNVi) MAC, as that doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6E.

And, in keeping with making this reference system look as close to a retail design as reasonably possible, Intel even put the usual Intel Core and NVIDIA GeForce stickers on the laptop.

Unfortunately, we’ve had relatively little time with the system ahead of today’s embargo. The embargo on performance figures was originally scheduled for last Thursday (May 13th). However due to delays in shipping these laptops to reviewers, we didn’t receive the system until the end of last week, and Intel bumped back the embargo accordingly. So with just over two days to look over the system, we’ve really only had a chance to take a look at the most critical aspects of the system when it comes to performance.

Power Consumption - Up to 65W or not?
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  • Spunjji - Thursday, May 20, 2021 - link

    He measured the power consumption, you pillock. It's right there in the review. Nice work getting your FUD on the front page though, round of applause for gondaft.

    If Tiger Lake H will be better in "the right chassis", Intel really should have thought of that when they supplied this one. As things stand, it's clear that this chassis wasn't causing the CPU to throttle at 45W, so the only way it would perform better is in a chassis that allows for 65W - at which point you'd find AMD's CPUs performing better, too...
  • 5j3rul3 - Monday, May 17, 2021 - link

    It's a big step to intel
    M1 and Ryzen 5000 are powerful, Intel need more pros to getting the leading performance
  • mode_13h - Monday, May 17, 2021 - link

    This is definitely what Rocket Lake should've been. If they just put this chip in a desktop package, so it could be run with a desktop power budget and cooling, it'd sure be a lot more interesting than it is inside a laptop.
  • Exotica - Monday, May 17, 2021 - link

    Yields may have been the primary concern.
  • mode_13h - Monday, May 17, 2021 - link

    I get why they didn't do it, but it's clear to me this chip really wants to be a desktop CPU.
  • whatthe123 - Monday, May 17, 2021 - link

    it's probably more that they've tweaked their 10nm to hit high boost at the cost of efficiency. I think they increased their gate pitch with "superfin" so you end up with more performance scaling but also more power use. considering how far behind their desktop chips are compared to 7nm chips from AMD they may just be crippling efficiency across the board to get performance parity while their fabs lag behind. they don't seem to have high hopes for 10nm considering their target for market leadership is 2024 with 7nm.

    laptop users generally stick with bursty operations or video games and in both cases raw throughput isn't as much of a concern. average user would probably not notice or even benefit from the high ST burst performance, but anyone planning on using it professionally would probably be better off with cezanne.
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, May 18, 2021 - link

    It would certainly be able to stretch its legs better there. It would be interesting to see whether it could handle running those higher boost clocks across more cores with a higher TDP. Guess we'll find out with Alder Lake.
  • Lucky Stripes 99 - Monday, May 17, 2021 - link

    I thought the same. This chip in a mini-STX case with a desktop cooler would make a great portable system. However, if it is having thermal issues with a full-size workstation laptop, it'll likely struggle in the smallest of SFF cases like the NUC.
  • Azix - Monday, May 17, 2021 - link

    the laptop doesn't look that that big. A nuc would have more vertical space for the cooling for example. It would also be easier to throw that heat out.
  • mode_13h - Monday, May 17, 2021 - link

    Uh, the mini-STX NUCs don't really have much space. Everything is packed in pretty tightly. Furthermore, they usually top out at 28 W.

    For Coffee Lake, Intel made a larger system they called a "NUC", but I think they had actual Nvidia graphics cards in them and were bigger than a lot of mini-PCs.

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