Intel's upcoming Lunar Lake will crank out over 100 TOPS of AI performance later this year

Intel Lunar Lake
(Image credit: Intel)

Intel's next-gen Lunar Lake CPUs for laptops will majorly up the AI ante with 100-plus TOPS of AI processing power. So said Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger at the company's recent Vision 2024 event.

In total, that's about three times what Intel's existing Meteor Lake can muster in terms of raw AI processing. Arguably more importantly, 45 of those TOPS, or trillion operations per second, come from Lunar Lake's upgraded NPU or Neural Processing Unit.

The rest come from the CPU and GPU components. Intel doesn't break that split down, but the vast majority will come from Lunar Lake's GPU. General-purpose CPU cores are not the best at generating lots of AI TOPS.

That matters because Microsoft has decided that the minimum definition for an "AI PC" will be 45 TOPS from a dedicated NPU. Any TOPS delivered by the CPU or GPU don't count in Microsoft's figuring.

The NPU in Intel's current Meteor Lake chips can only manage 11 TOPS, which means no current Intel laptop qualifies as an AI laptop. For what it's worth, the same applies to AMD's laptop chips.

The NPU in AMD's latest Hawk Point chip for laptops beats Meteor Lake with 16 TOPS. But it's still miles off the required Microsoft definition.

Gelsinger brandished a Lunar Lake chip on the show stage. (Image credit: Intel)

Intriguingly, Qualcomm's new Snapdragon X Elite Arm SoC for Windows laptops has a 45 TOPS NPU. So it will qualify as an AI PC right out of the gate when the first systems go on sale in June.

In fact, unless AMD gets its new Strix Point APU out the door before then, a laptop with Qualcomm's new chip might just end up as the first PC you can buy that qualifies as an official Microsoft AI PC, which would be quite the marketing coup, if nothing else.

Intel Lunar Lake

Lunar Lake will have over 1000 combined AI TOPS when it arrives later this year. (Image credit: Intel)

Incidentally, it's not clear exactly why 45 TOPS is the all-important figure for the PC's AI epiphany according to Microsoft. However, Microsoft will certainly have set the target in consultation with the likes of Intel.

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So, let's just say the fact both Lunar Lake and Snapdragon X Elite's NPU TOPS perfectly match Microsoft's definition probably isn't a coincidence. 

As for when you can expect Lunar Lake chips to turn up, Intel has it inked in as a 2024 product. But odds are it won't appear until right at the end of the year. 

In the meantime, it's arguably Intel's desktop CPUs that are in much more acute need of an overhaul, what with Intel only managing to refresh its existing Raptor Lake CPUs last time around, which in turn are only really a mild refresh of Allder Lake from 2021.

It's Arrow Lake that's supposed to get that job done. It's another 2024 product, but there hasn't been much Arrow Lake news of late. So, that's another Intel CPU that probably won't be out much before the end of the year.

Jeremy Laird
Hardware writer

Jeremy has been writing about technology and PCs since the 90nm Netburst era (Google it!) and enjoys nothing more than a serious dissertation on the finer points of monitor input lag and overshoot followed by a forensic examination of advanced lithography. Or maybe he just likes machines that go “ping!” He also has a thing for tennis and cars.