Intel today launched the mobile version of its “Raptor Lake Refresh” processors for laptops at CES 2024, answering the demands for more performance in its notebook chips. Led by the Intel Core i9-14900HX, the new chip family can hit 5.8GHz, driving desktop speeds inside a gaming laptop. Raptor Lake Refresh powers Intel’s 14th-gen desktop series as well, but these new processors are being offered alongside the company’s much-hyped “Meteor Lake” Core Ultra chips in laptops.
If you’re already an owner of a 13th-gen Core laptop, however, you may want to pause. These new chips seem awfully familiar, and 14th-gen Core HX laptop owners are likely see much sharper performance improvements compared to the Core Ultra than the 13th-gen mobile parts.
It now looks like the Core Ultra will be the engine for all-day productivity laptops, and the new 14th-gen mobile Core HX series will be what you’ll buy for Intel-based fast gaming laptops. About sixty HX-based notebooks will ship this year, Intel expects.
The secret? More cores, surrounded by an infrastructure that delivers more data. Intel’s Core Ultra processors top out at six performance cores (P-cores) and eight efficiency cores (E-cores) with a pair of low-power E-cores, to boot. The Core Ultra Thread Director’s management software pushes new tasks to the lowest-power cores, first. On the other hand, Intel’s 14th-gen mobile chips like the Core i9-14900HX top out with eight P-cores and a whopping sixteen E-cores, and it appears new tasks will be routed to the fastest cores first.
While the new 14th-gen Core mobile processors share some overlap with the Core Ultra — DDR5 memory, Bluetooth 5.4/5.3, and integrated Wi-Fi 6E (with support for discrete Wi-Fi 7 cards) — there’s one significant upgrade: support for Thunderbolt 5, which promises 80 to 120Gbps connections allowing multiple high-resolution displays and likely a resurgence of external GPUs.
Yes, the name is a bit weird — Intel refers to these as the Intel Core processor HX-series (14th-gen), or 14th-gen mobile Core HX. But if you keep an eye out for processors like the Core i9-14900HX on the labels at laptops you’re looking at, you should be on your way to buying the best performance Intel currently offers.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Between the Core and Core Ultra brands, Intel and its partners will ship more than 750 designs this year, Michelle Johnson Holthaus, executive vice president o the Intel Client Computing Group, said on stage at CES here, launching the new chips. Excecutives from HP, Dell, Lenovo and more were on stage supporting the launch.
Intel Core i9-14900HX: 24 cores (8 P-cores at up to 5.8GHz,16 E-cores up to 4.1GHz)/32 threads, UHD Graphics at 1.65GHz.
Intel Core i7-14700HX: 20 cores (8 P-cores at up to 5.5GHz,12 E-cores up to 3.9GHz)/28 threads, UHD Graphics at 1.6GHz
Intel Core i7-14650HX: 16 cores (8 P-cores at up to 5.2GHz, 8 E-cores up to 3.7GHz)/24 threads. UHD Graphics at 1.6GHz
Intel Core i7-14500HX: 14 cores (6 P-cores at up to 4.9GHz, 8 E-cores up to 3.5GHz)/20 threads. UHD Graphics at 1.55GHz
Intel Core i7-14450HX: 10 cores (6 P-cores at up to 4.8GHz, 4 E-cores up to 3.5GHz)/16 threads. UHD Graphics at 1.5GHz
To be fair, these new 14th-gen HX processors outshine Meteor Lake in terms of performance, but they look awfully similar to the 13th-gen Core chips Intel announced in January 2023. Take the Intel Core i9-13980HX: 8 performance cores, 16 efficiency cores, with the turbo clock speed of the P-cores hitting 5.6GHz. That chip would slot in rather nicely between the current Core i9-14900HX and the Core i7-14700HX.
Even a closer look doesn’t reveal that many changes, though the low-end mobile processors improve. At the low end, the older Core i5-13450HX offered 6 P-cores at 4.6GHz, 4 E-cores at up to 3.4GHz, and UHD graphics at up to 1.45GHz. The Core i7-14450HX delivers 6 P-cores at 4.8GHz turbo speeds, 4 E-cores at 3.5GHz, and UHD Graphics at 1.5GHz.
None of these new 14th-gen chips contain AI capabilities, unlike Meteor Lake. (Intel launched standalone Movidius AI cards alongside some of the 13th-gen mobile Core chips.) And because these are mobile processors, Intel isn’t disclosing prices. Instead, laptop makers will buy them directly from Intel.
The era of Thunderbolt 5 begins within Intel’s 14th-gen Core HX
There are some differences in the supporting I/O infrastructure, though. For one, the Raptor Lake Refresh architecture is built upon the traditional two-die design, with a CPU and an I/O chip. Meteor Lake uses a new tiled architecture.
The new 14th-gen Core HX-series chips will use DDR5-5600 memory, like Meteor Lake (which uses LPDDR5 or LPDDR5X-7469 memory, too). The new 14th-gen HX chips won’t be able to achieve those faster speeds, and DDR4 3200 is listed as an alternative memory option instead for 14th-gen HX laptops.
The tradeoff? More lanes of PCIe Gen 5 instead — Meteor Lake includes a 1×8 PCIe 5.0 connection, while the 14th-gen HX platform includes x16 lanes instead. The new 14th-gen HX mobile platform also includes four lanes of PCIe4 off the CPU (plus another 16 off of the I/O controller) and 12 lanes of PCIe 3.0 off the I/O controller, too.
It’s possible that some of those PCIe 5 lanes could be used for Thunderbolt 5. Intel doesn’t list Thunderbolt as an integrated feature of the platform at all, and has listed it as available on select models. WiFi 7 should be available as a discrete option, too, as will Intel’s Wi-Fi 7 (5 Gig) BE200 chip, and the Killer 1750x, which will combine WiFi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4.
And on paper, it appears that the 14th-gen HX laptops will fall a bit short of Meteor Lake in terms of display I/O. While the Core Ultra/Meteor Lake supports DisplayPort 2.1 and HDMI 2.1, the 14th-gen HX tech supports just HDMI 2.0b and DisplayPort 1.4.
By gambling on DisplayPort 1.4 (as well as embedded DisplayPort 1.4, also supported) Intel is betting that gamers won’t want anything more than 4K120Hz native outputs, rather than the 4K240 option DisplayPort 2.1 (or 8K60) provides. HDMI 2.0b can only support 4K60 resolution, or 1440p outputs at 120Hz.
But there’s a slight wrinkle. The 14th-gen HX platform supports High Bit Rate 3 (HBR3) a lossless compression standard. Provided the output supports it, HBR3 works with DisplayPort to provide (lossless) compressed video at up to 8K60 using a single monitor.
The 14th-gen HX platform also supports WiFi 6E, (just) gigabit Ethernet, x8 SATA, and 14 USB2 and 10 USB3 connections.
Intel is also carving out a small group of U-class processors into its own special grouping, and it’s not quite clear why. We may see these in Chromebooks, or just budget consumer and business-class notebooks. The emphasis here is on battery life, with more weight given toward E-cores than P-cores.
The plus? Support for four Thunderbolt 4 ports.
Though you can certainly connect any Thunderbolt 4 port to a Thunderbolt dock, support for four ports means that it’s likely that you’ll see at least one port on either side of your laptop. Snake a few I/O cables around your desk and you’ll soon appreciate how useful that is.
How fast is the Intel Core HX?
Naturally, Intel is comparing its latest processors to older AMD Ryzen CPUs, in making the claim that its latest chips outperform AMD’s best. But it’s noteworthy, too, that Intel isn’t making any gen-over-gen comparisons to its 13th-gen mobile Core chips, too. While we haven’t reviewed the new 14th-gen Core HX platform, it seems possible that we’ll see a mild gen-over-gen performance improvement similar to our Intel 14th-gen desktop Core review.
At least Intel is bringing in AMD’s X3D parts for comparisons. Otherwise, it would be two mobile Core architectures to AMD’s one.
All of the new 14th-gen HX platforms are overclockable, and support Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility for tuning and overclocking memory, as well as Intel’s XMP, or Extreme Memory Profile. Intel is also continually tuning applications and games via Intel Application Optimization, and the company says that it’s added six new gaming titles since October.
We’re already seeing gaming laptops announced using the new 14th-gen Core HX chips. Will AMD have an answer?
This story was updated at 4:09 PM with additional details. .