Intel’s latest 11th Gen Core processors (CPU) with Intel Xe integrated graphics were announced September 2, 2020, and with them comes a new platform brand called “Intel Evo.” If you’re familiar with Intel’s other initiative to accelerate laptop innovation, known as “Project Athena,” Evo is essentially a second coming that still encompasses specifications set out by Athena. However, there are new “Key Experience Indicators” (KEI) and specifications that must be hit in order to be considered for Evo, and it’s expected that devices with the branding will be ideal for a number of everyday tasks. Let’s take a look at what Evo means for laptops and what you can expect from the platform.
What is Intel Evo?
Intel Evo can be considered a second edition of Project Athena, the initiative fleshed-out by Intel in 2019. Project Athena laptops require consistent (and relatively lengthy) battery life and consistent performance while running on battery, they require fast charging, and they require snappy system responsiveness for things like instant wake. Additional features like Wi-Fi 6, optional Gigabit LTE, and far-field voice recognition are also listed. Laptops like the Dell XPS 13 9300 and HP Spectre x360 13 — two laptops that rank high in our collection of best Windows laptop options — are considered a part of Project Athena.
Intel made it clear that Project Athena specs were just the first round of targets, and Evo has now brought the second round of KEIs and specs. For a laptop to receive the Evo badge, it must have an 11th Gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU with Intel Xe integrated graphics. Sorry, Core i3; you’re cut. If it has one of the right CPUs, the laptop must hit these KEI targets (from Intel) as a minimum:
- Consistent responsiveness on battery.
- Wake from sleep in less than 1 second.
- 9 or more hours of real-world battery life on laptops with a Full HD display.
- 4 or more hours of battery life in a 30-minute charge on laptops with Full HD display.
There are, of course, some addenda to these rules. Responsiveness on battery is measured in a realistic manner with a standard productivity workflow, as is FHD battery life. Fast-charging is measured with the system shut down. This is all standard but worth mentioning.
Intel doesn’t stop with the four Evo KEIs. Laptops with the Evo brand must have Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, Thunderbolt 4 ports, and USB-C charging, which is a welcome change that should cut down on the various barrel and plug charging adapters. There are a number of other highlights laid out by Intel, including a minimum of 8GB dual-channel RAM, 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD, biometric login abilities (IR camera, fingerprint reader, Bluetooth proximity sensor), and optional Gigabit LTE connectivity.
As for laptop form factors, don’t expect to see a chunky gaming laptop have the Evo badge. Devices will range from 12 to 15 inches, they’ll have at least an FHD touch display, and fans will be excluded or sized less than 15mm. Narrow bezels are a must, as is a thin, light chassis. A front-facing 720p camera (at minimum) and high-quality speakers and tuning are also listed by Intel.
Altogether there are a lot of features and specifications to keep track of, and that’s no doubt why Intel is putting them all under one Evo badge. When you’re shopping for the best Ultrabook and value what Intel encompasses here, it’s far easier to look for Evo than to delve into spec sheets. Give Dell’s new XPS 13 9310 a look to see one of the first Evo-branded laptops up for sale.
How good are 11th Gen Intel “Tiger Lake” CPUs?
All the new Evo features are great, but what about Intel’s 11th Gen CPUs? These 10nm SuperFin process U-series chips are intended to be nearly three times faster for photo editing, twice as fast at video editing, and twice as fast at gaming compared to 10th Gen U-series CPUs. Considering how well AMD’s Ryzen 4000 CPUs perform, Intel needed a big jump for this generation.
Part of that big jump comes from the new Intel Xe integrated graphics. The Core i7 chip boasts 2.5 TFLOPS of power, which puts it in line with dedicated graphics like the NVIDIA GTX 1550 Ti. And indeed, Intel claims the integrated graphics will handle games like Borderlands 3, Far Cry New Dawn, and Hitman 2 at smooth 1080p frame rates.
While laptops with the Evo branding are few at the moment, expect to see a lot of new products coming in the following months. There are reportedly around 150 new laptops coming from heavy-hitters like Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG, MSI, Razer, and Samsung. For now, be sure to have a look at our roundup of the best Windows laptop options available now.
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