Chromebooks have come a long way from the days of the CR-48. What we consider “budget” devices are pushing benchmarks in the range of Core i3 devices from just five years ago. One of the more notable jumps in performance happened when Intel made the move from the disappointing Apollo Lake CPUs to the Gemini Lake and Gemini Lake-R processors we are seeing in the latest “Atom-level” Chromebooks. The dual-core N4020 Gemini Lake CPU will pump out Octane scores that flat-out destroy the aged 3205U that was once one of the better Chromebook CPUs available.
As impressive as that may sound, the next generation of entry-level CPUs from Intel could push budget Chromebooks to an entirely new realm. Apollo Lake and Gemini Lake both use Intel’s Goldmont and Goldmont+ architecture and Intel’s Gen9 graphics. Despite the improvement in performance over older Atom chips, Goldmont still uses the 14nm process that Intel is attempting to move on from in favor of 10nm. Well, that 10nm process has already found its way into the Chromium Repository in the form of more-powerful Tiger Lake CPUs and for Atom-range chips, we now have evidence that Jasper Lake and Elkhart Lake chips will power upcoming devices.
Jasper Lake and Elkhart Lake will be the successors to the current Gemini Lake devices but they are bringing a lot more to the party than just a few minor tweaks as we’ve seen if previous Intel families. As I mentioned above, these processors are using the 10nm manufacturing process and feature the newer Tremont architecture. In addition, the new chips will host newer Intel Gen11 graphics. Intel is reporting that the new architecture will boost throughput for these chips by 30% over previous CPUs. Much of that comes from the following improvements:
- New dual symmetric decode cluster
- Out-of-order decode
- 6-wide decode, 3-way decode per cluster
- Smarter prefetchers
- Improved branch predictor
- Big-core level of performance
The ins and outs of this new architecture will take you off into the weeds a ways but here’s a little video from Intel if you’d like to learn more.
If we consider a 30% performance boost in these new CPUs and look at benchmarks from current Intel processors in the Gemini Lake-R family, Jasper and Elkhart could theoretically push Octane scores in the range of 21,000 or more. Just two years ago, that would have been one of the more-powerful Chromebooks on the market. However, these chips aren’t going into flagship Chromebooks. No, these will be the EDU devices and the middle-of-the-road $300 Chromebooks you pick up from Best Buy or Walmart and they’ll be more powerful than what the average user will ever need and that’s amazing. It will likely be next year before we see one of these devices in the flesh but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will be a huge step forward for the Chromebook market as a whole.