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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  • back2future - Tuesday, May 18, 2021 - link

    it's almost one could skip PCIe4 if early 2022 PCIe5 is stable on power management and performance expectations on mainboards?
  • mode_13h - Thursday, May 20, 2021 - link

    > it's almost one could skip PCIe4 if early 2022 PCIe5 is stable ... on mainboards?

    Uh, I'm still eager to see exactly how Intel is going to use PCIe 5, in Alder Lake. I suspect it'll be used only for the DMI link to the chipset, in fact.

    Since graphics cards and M.2 SSDs aren't even close to maxing PCIe 4, I struggle to see why they would bother with the added cost and potential issues of supporting 5.
  • heickelrrx - Monday, May 17, 2021 - link

    you can put 4x link on Video card and get 8x speed on Gen 3

    mean they can put more stuff, with less link, not faster stuff
  • mode_13h - Tuesday, May 18, 2021 - link

    > you can put 4x link on Video card and get 8x speed on Gen 3

    In terms of power-efficiency, I'd bet the wider, slower link is better.

    > mean they can put more stuff, with less link, not faster stuff

    It's a laptop. So, prolly not gonna run out of PCIe lanes.
  • gagegfg - Monday, May 17, 2021 - link

    "and if anticipated, great gaming performance"...
    Inside this notebook case he had a hard time controlling the temperature, if you add a 100W GPU, where is the rest for this cpu?
    mmm .... it's going to be interesting.
  • Matthias B V - Monday, May 17, 2021 - link

    Most OEMs still prefer Intel as it has capacity that AMD can't offer and even more it has better features and integration such as AV1 coding, USB / TB 4.0, Intel WIFI etc.

    Also Intels provides better support for OEMs in design and issues.
  • Gigaplex - Monday, May 17, 2021 - link

    AMD systems can provide TB support, there's no technical limitation preventing it. Intel WiFi chips are standalone cards, which also work fine in AMD systems (my AMD board has Intel WiFi). There's no reason to use an Intel CPU for either of those features.
  • Retycint - Monday, May 17, 2021 - link

    The fact that not a single AMD laptop has thunderbolt, points to an issue with cost of implementation/PCI lanes limitations etc. which apparently doesn't exist on Intel CPUs, given how many Intel laptops come with TB as default. This is a fact, and talking about what's possible theoretically doesn't change the facts that AMD systems lack TB
  • CityBlue - Monday, May 17, 2021 - link

    > The fact that not a single AMD laptop has thunderbolt, points to an issue with cost of implementation/PCI lanes limitations etc.

    Perhaps. Or it's simply a reflection of the fact that there is only niche demand for TB.

    It's on Intel based laptops because it's supported by the chipset so pretty much a no-brainer (or alternatively, Intel mandates it is included, in order to try and make it more relevant?)

    However the vast majority of laptop consumers don't need, want or care about TB, so the extra cost to include it in AMD laptops doesn't appear justified. I'm sure a vendor could include TB on an AMD laptop if they ever thought they'd get a reasonable return on the extra cost.

    And maybe now that Intel have been kicked in to touch by Apple, Intel might lose interest in TB in future.

    TB has its fans, but it also has the distinct whiff of being the next FireWire.
  • RobJoy - Tuesday, May 18, 2021 - link

    The fact that TB still exists, baffles me.
    We all should move on.

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