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Intel Retires Lakefield, the First x86 Hybrid (Big Little) CPU Just 2 Years After Launch

In a rather surprising move, Intel has announced the discontinuation of the Lakefield SoC, its first hybrid core processor along with Ice Lake-U and Comet Lake-U. Launched in January 2009, Lakefield combined one Sunny Cove (high-performance/big) core with four Tremont (low-power/little) cores, stacked atop the I/O die and below the DRAM chips. It was less of an actual product and more of a demonstration of Intel’s advanced packaging techniques. The SoC was the first product to leverage Foveros (3D packaging) and a hybrid core design for handheld devices and convertibles.

Unfortunately, Lakefield only came to two devices, namely the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold and the Samsung Galaxy Book S, both sub-15″ products. The premise with this hybrid core mobile processor was ultra-power consumption (Tremont Atom cores) while idle and performance roughly on par with Core-class notebooks (Sunny Cove core). However, the results were far from ideal.

The Windows scheduler struggled to distinguish between the two core types, and the products were neither as fast as existing Core-class notebooks, nor as power-efficient as Arm-based big/LITTLE designs. Furthermore, the high price tag of over $2,000 made the devices using it even less appealing.

Luckily for Intel, the performance of the SoC with Windows 11 has improved, and this can only be seen as a prelude to the launch of the Alder Lake-S processors later this year. As for Ice Lake-U, these SKUs had their own issues. Despite featuring the 10nm+ node, they had relatively low boost clocks, higher power consumption, and limited supply. Both Ice and Comet Lake-U were supposed to be placeholders of sorts till Tiger Lake was announced last year.

Areej

Computer Engineering dropout (3 years), writer, journalist, and amateur poet. I started my first technology blog, Techquila while in college to address my hardware passion. Although largely successful, it was a classic example of too many people trying out multiple different things but getting nothing done. Left in late 2019 and been working on Hardware Times ever since.
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