Only Intel's Core Ultra is good enough for vPro laptops

Intel Core Ultra vPro editImage: Intel

Intel has followed up the launch of its 14th-gen mobile processors for consumers by announcing the corresponding vPro platform for business PCs, with one key difference: Only one mobile processor platform will be available, not two.

Intel announced nearly a dozen Core Ultra processors for business laptops, but said that it would not offer the 14th-gen Core chips for mobile PCs. That’s a change from Intel’s consumer laptop offerings, where Core Ultra chips can be found in more efficient mainstream laptops and the 14th-gen Core (or Core HX) has been used for performance laptops and gaming. Conversely, only 14th-gen Core chips will be available for vPro’s desktop lineup.

As before, Intel will subdivide each brand into subcategories. There’s Intel vPro Essentials, for small businesses up to 20 employees; and vPro Enterprise, for larger enterprises which receive the bulk of Intel’s security and manageability solutions. Since these features are generally managed by an IT department, consumers typically don’t need to buy a vPro laptop, though features like Intel Hardware Shield come standard with the Essentials platform. Intel has steadily bolstered Hardware Shield over time, from Intel Control Flow Technology in the 11th-gen Tiger Lake to chips to additional cryptomining and ransomware protections in the 12th-gen Alder Lake chips.

What’s new for the 14th-gen Core Ultra vPro platform? In terms of security, Intel’s enhanced Intel Threat Detection Technology runs on all cores, including the NPU, to provide better and more power-efficient protection, Intel said. Intel also has a new Intel Silicon Security Engine which authenticates system firmware, the company said. Intel’s new vPro platforms can also report more information about the PCs they run on, such as “wear and tear” information.

Intel expects to ship more than 100 mobile and desktop designs based on the vPro-class Core and Core Ultra chips, with brands ranging from Acer to VAIO, it said.

Intel’s 14th-gen vPro chips look familiar

These are the same chips you’ve seen before at Intel’s December 2023 launch of the Core Ultra. The difference is that Intel announced then that three additional chips would ship during the first quarter, leading with the Core Ultra 9 185H: 16 cores/22 threads, topping out at a P-core turbo speed of 5.1GHz. Intel has added the Core Ultra 9 185H, the Core Ultra 7 164U, and the Core Ultra 5 134U to the vPro lineup, signaling that those chips are available for consumers and businesses alike.

For now, Intel has set aside the 14th-gen mobile Core HX family. But the architecture steals the spotlight for desktop vPro chips. There, Intel is picking select processors from the October 2023 launch of the 14th-gen desktop Core architecture as well as the additional 35W and 65W desktop Core chips that Intel launched this January.



Otherwise, the argument for using Intel’s latest AI-enhanced vPro chips within corporate PCs feels very familiar: up to 36 percent less power than the prior generation, 47 percent more productivity than a three-year-old PC, and with 2.2 times the AI performance than the Movidius AI processor cards that accompanied some 13th-gen Core laptops. Features like WiFi 7 support and AV1 encoding / decoding are additional bonuses.

Finally, there’s the NPU: while AI may be most effective running on a CPU or GPU, Microsoft has focused its AI efforts on filtering out background noises and objects from Microsoft Teams, powered by the NPU. Intel, for its part, has said that the NPU is the most power-effective use of AI. All of that is particularly suited to a meeting-driven, corporate PC environment.

“2024 is shaping up to be the best years for ITs, to refresh the fleet and be AI ready,” said David Feng, vice president of the Client Computing Group at Intel and general manager of the client segment, in a briefing with reporters. “The stars are aligned between our products, Microsoft’s new innovations [in Copilot] and the ecosystem’s rapid development on AI.”

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

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