It was recently brought to our attention that three new Ice Lake CPUs were listed on Intel’s online ARK database of products: the Core i7-1060NG7, the Core i5-1030NG7, and the Core i3-1000NG4. These differ from the ‘consumer’ released products by having an ‘N’ in them, and specification-wise these CPUs have a slightly higher TDP along with a slightly higher base clock, as well as being in a smaller package. We reached out to Intel, but in the meantime we also noticed that the CPUs line up perfectly with what Apple is providing in its latest Macbook Air.

Intel’s Ice Lake family is the first generation of 10nm processors that the company has made widely available. We’ve covered Intel’s ups and downs with the 10nm process, and last year it launched Ice Lake as part of its 10th Generation Core family, focusing more on premium products that need graphics horsepower or AI acceleration. In the initial announcement, Intel stated that there would be nine different Ice Lake processors coming to market, however we learned that the lower-power parts would take longer to arrive.

These three new CPUs actually fall under that ‘lower power’ bracket, meaning they were meant to be coming out about this time, but are labelled differently to the processors initially announced. This is because these new CPUs are officially listed as ‘off-roadmap’, which is code for ‘not available to everyone’. Some OEMs, particularly the big ones like Apple, or sometimes HP and others, will make a request to Intel to develop a special version of their products just for them. This product is usually the same silicon as before, but binned differently, often to tighter constraints: it might differ in frequency, TDP, core count, or the way it is packaged. This more often happens in the server space, but can happen for notebooks as well, assuming you can order a larger amount.

Intel Ice Lake-Y Variants
AnandTech 1060N
Cores / Threads 4 / 8 4 / 8   4 / 8 4 / 8   2 / 4 2 / 4
L3 Cache 8 MB 8 MB   6 MB 6 MB   4 MB 4 MB
Base Freq (GHz) 1.20 1.00   1.10 0.80   1.10 1.10
Turbo Freq (GHz) 3.80 3.80   3.50 3.50   3.20 3.20
TDP 10 W 9 W   10 W 9 W   9 W 9 W
LPDDR4X 3733 3733   3733 3733   3733 3733
GPU EUs 64 64   64 64   48 48
GPU Freq (MHz) 1100 1100   1050 1050   900 900
Package T5 T4   T5 T4   T5 T4

These new CPUs are different because they have an ‘N’ in the name. This translates, in the case of the Core i7, to +1W on the TDP, +200 MHz on the base frequency, and a much smaller package size. They are all classified as Iris Plus graphics, and the G7 indicates 64 EUs while the G4 indicates 48 EUs. Interestingly the new CPUs have Intel’s TXT and Optane Memory Support disabled. Increasing the TDP by 11% and the base frequency by 20% is probably very reasonable – ultimately the TDP affects more for the sustained performance, for which customers that want custom versions are probably optimizing for quite well.

Another aspect is the smaller package size. Intel for the Ice CPUs traditionally has two packages - a Type 3 at 50x25mm, and a Type 4 at 26.5 x 18.5 mm. With Type 4, the CPU and IO chips are close together and have a shim to stiffen the package. This new package seems to be off-roadmap as well, without the shim - a 'Type 5' package if you will. The smaller package also helps in designing the system, leaving more room for other components. Arguably this is the biggest change with these CPUs, reducing the package from 26.5 mm by 18.5 mm to 22.0 mm by 16.5 mm, a 26% size reduction.

We suspect these are the CPUs in the most recent updates to Apple’s Macbook Air line. Apple historically does not list exactly which processors it uses in its devices, but the website shows the following:

These specifications line up. Two of the three CPUs already have Geekbench benchmark results submitted to the online database.

When we approached Intel asking what these CPUs were, and the official line is:

“The ‘N’ notes a slightly differentiated, customer-specific version of those SKUs. Those slight differences require a signifier for our internal SKU management and ordering systems. The N is not a new subfamily or directly connected to a specific set of features, for example.”

This goes in line with what we stated above about customer-specific binning. Apple will no doubt be ordering a few million of these CPUs, so Intel is prepared to add an extra binning step just for the business.

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  • yeeeeman - Thursday, March 26, 2020 - link

    I don't apple is so stupid that it would need anandtech forum comments to tell them about this. I am pretty sure they tested it.
  • yeeeeman - Thursday, March 26, 2020 - link

    Also, if these chips have a 80 degree threshold then nothing will break lose from the motherboard.
  • Retycint - Thursday, March 26, 2020 - link

    Narrator: They don't.
    The CPU jumps to 99C and then starts throttling.
  • repoman27 - Thursday, March 26, 2020 - link

    Yeah, and I always forget which laws of thermodynamics apply to desktop PCs and which ones are for notebooks. I mean, they’re totally different, right?
  • Stephen_L - Thursday, March 26, 2020 - link

    TIL laptops live in another universe with different laws of physics.
    Jokes aside you should also check out server computers, fans also don’t connect to heat sink.
    If you wish you can make an air duct from the case fan to the cpu heat sink, and remove the heatsink fan, as long as little air leak out, it basically works the same.
    No one said fans need to be connected to heat sinks, heat sinks cools by having air flow pass through it, as long as there is airflow, it cools. And as long as their is fan in an air duct, no matter how far it is, there are airflow.
    And as a plus removing heatpipes and directly connecting heatsink to cpu, there is no medium for heat transfer inefficiencies, I.e. the heat sink temperature is closer than the cpu itself, resulting in a more efficient cooling,
  • Retycint - Friday, March 27, 2020 - link

    The issue is that in a laptop where the heatsink is directly connected to the CPU, the heatsink is stacked on top of the CPU package. Given the slim profile of the MBA, this results in a significant loss in surface area due to lower maximum vertical height (vs using conventional heatpipe + heatsink elsewhere). Basically, in the MBA the heatsink onyl has the space between the CPU die and the bottom cover, whereas a separated heatsink usually has more space, such as between the unsderside of the keyboard cover and the bottom cover.

    This is very different from server computers where space (and vertical height) is not as crucial.
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - link

    Stephen_L seems to be unaware that the cooling layout in servers only works because of the sheer volume and pressure of air being forced through the system. Absent both of those characteristics, disconnecting the fan from the heatsink will increase resistance and decrease the focus of the airflow, reducing performance compared with an equivalent system with a directly attached fan.
  • tipoo - Thursday, March 26, 2020 - link

    Just like 10W and 355W are two different things...The MBA can sustain the 10W TDP and a bit into boosts under load, we know that.
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - link

    It's not the absolute wattage that matters so much as the thermal expansion and how it's handled. If it's not kept sufficiently cool then it could indeed become an issue; "could" being the operative term.

    The more likely problem they'll have is getting the things to run anywhere near their boost speed after more than 5 minutes of load.
  • tipoo - Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - link

    The custom package is a bit strange given that the chassis dimensions are the same as last years Air. Only thing that seems different with the bottom panel removed is that the heatsink got even weirder, rather than fins there's strange chambers drilled into it.

    Maybe this is just building the groundwork for a redesign to take advantage of the smaller size, though this would be far faster than Apple usually sticking to a chassis for a good 5 years.

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