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New Intel Core vPro CPUs Improve Speed, Battery For Work Laptops

'It's good timing for Intel to get these processors out to the OEMs,' a distribution executive says of Intel's new eighth-generation Core vPro processors that provide business laptops with faster performance, better battery life and new security features.

Intel is targeting the mobile workforce with its new lineup of eighth-generation Core vPro processors that provide laptops with faster performance, better battery life and new security features.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker announced the first two CPUs of its new vPro line, which includes advanced management features for enterprises, on Tuesday. The new Core i7-8665U and i5-8365U for Intel's vPro platform were revealed a little over a week after AMD announced its new family of second-generation Ryzen Pro processors for business laptops.

[Related: Intel's Steve Long On CPU Shortage: 'We Undercalled Demand As An Industry' For PCs]

Intel is pushing the processors — which will be available in new laptops from Lenovo, Dell, HP and Panasonic starting this spring —as the end of Microsoft's support for Windows 7 is expected to push a new buying cycle for business PCs and laptops in the channel.

"It's good timing for Intel to get these processors out to the OEMs," said Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at ASI, a Fremont, Calif.-based distributor.

While Intel's two new Core vPro processors come with four cores and eight threads — the same as the three new AMD Ryzen Pro processors — the latter two come with faster maximum clock frequencies, at 4.8 GHz and 4.1 GHz for the i7-8665U and i5-8365U, respectively, though their base clock speeds are slightly slower than AMD's. The two new Core vPro processors also come with a larger cache size.

The new processors, which are based on Intel's Whiskey Lake microarchitecture, come with Intel's Wi-Fi 6 technology and support the new Intel Optane memory H10 SSD module, which combines Intel's Optane memory with its Quad Level Cell 3D NAND storage technology in a compact M.2 form factor.

Stephanie Hallford, Intel's vice president of business client platforms, said the new vPro Core processors seek to address the growing complexities IT departments face as employees become increasingly mobile, whether they're working remotely most of the time or traveling every month.

"The challenge it creates for the IT profession is very profound," she said in a briefing.

Hallford said these complexities are addressed by the four pillars of the vPro platform, which has shipped 120 million systems to date since it was launched 10 years ago.

The first pillar is business user experience, which means providing improved performance, regardless of whether the laptop is plugged in or running on battery, according to Hallford. She said the new processors deliver 65 percent faster overall performance versus a three-year-old laptop running on a sixth-generation Intel Core i7-6600U processor. That level of performance remains unchanged when the laptop is unplugged, which the company demonstrated in a test video.

Hallford said new Intel Core vPro systems that include the new Optane memory H10 SSD module will launch applications up to two times faster than systems that use regular SSDs. Last but not least, the new processors enable a battery life of up to 11 hours during a regular work day.

Another major talking point is the new Core vPro processors' support for Intel's Wi-Fi 6 technology, which is based on the 802.11ax standard and enables gigabit wireless speeds. Hallford said Wi-Fi 6 provides nearly 40 percent faster wireless speeds than routers based on the 802.11ac standard while also quadrupling the number of endpoints per router.

The second pillar of the Intel vPro platform is new built-in hardware security called Intel Hardware Shield that protects the BIOS from firmware attacks.

"If there are malicious attacks, we can lock down the BIOS to help prevent that as a new attack surface," Hallford said. "Most importantly, it requires no additional IT infrastructure."

Intel vPro's third pillar consists of the platform's enterprise management features, which include remote management, multi-factor identity authentication and lifecycle management. The fourth pillar is what Hallford called stability, which is focused on minimizing platform component updates and providing rigorous testing to ensure "better quality, reliability and compatibility of system components."

Jason Kimrey, Intel's U.S. channel chief, told CRN that the company continues "to offer a wide range of vPro incentives and resources for our partners." The company is also looking at more ways to invest in the vPro ecosystem with partners, he added.

"For example, we’ve been working over the past year with distributors and solution providers on opportunities to scale vPro as part of 'device as a service' offerings since we’re seeing early indicators that this is a valuable service to customers," he said in a statement.

Tibbils, the marketing executive at ASI, said vPro can help partners with managed services opportunities, including remote management.

"It can especially help the reseller geographically reach a greater distance," he said.

Randy Copeland, president of Velocity Micro, a Richmond, Va.-based systems builder and Intel partner, said while he doesn't see much demand for vPro, he is seeing more refresh opportunities for laptops with business customers.

"They generally don't last as long as desktops, and some employers (including my businesses) do see higher satisfaction from providing employees with up-to-date and [fast] computers, either desktops or laptops," he said in an email. "It's definitely a thing."

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