Intel’s new laptop chips could leave the MacBook in the dust - here’s how

A van with a comical rocket engine strapped to the back and the Intel logo printed on the side, driving so fast the road is bursting into flames.
(Image credit: Shutterstock, Intel)

Intel’s had a fairly rough start to 2023, but there could be good news on the horizon for the company: namely, the upcoming Meteor Lake CPUs. According to well-respected hardware leaker Moore’s Law Is Dead (MLID) on YouTube, inside sources have suggested that the new chips could be among the best processors ever made – and cause problems for all of Intel’s key competitors, but in very different ways.

The first area to discuss is the Intel integrated GPU (iGPU) that’ll come loaded on the new Meteor Lake chips, which are expected to launch later this year, but apparently only for laptops. Intel’s Iris Xe integrated graphics have made a reasonable case for ditching dedicated graphics cards so far, but if MLID’s info is accurate, the new chips could provide a huge boost to integrated graphical performance.

Amusingly, MLID’s source is in fact not from Intel, but rather from a leaked internal slide from AMD, comparing its new ‘Phoenix’ APUs to Nvidia GPUs and a predicted performance stat for a 45W Meteor Lake chip. As MLID notes, AMD placed the Intel chip just behind its competing Phoenix Ryzen chip, but it’s possible – likely, even – that AMD is underestimating here.

In terms of graphical performance, that places the new Meteor Lake chip somewhere between the Nvidia GTX 1650 and RTX 3050. Sure, the 1650 might be three years old at this point, but it’s the most popular GPU at the time of writing according to Steam’s Hardware Survey.

This could spell trouble for Nvidia; I’ve meditated in the past on the prospect of integrated graphics replacing dedicated GPUs altogether, and this looks like a step in that direction. It might prove worrisome for AMD too, which has been pushing ahead with iGPUs for ultra-thin gaming laptops and devices like the kick-ass Asus ROG Ally.

Intel 12th-Gen mobile CPU

Intel is still on the cutting edge of CPU design, but recent economic setbacks could spell trouble further down the line. (Image credit: Intel)

Power is everything - even for Apple

Of course, the Apple M2 chips found in laptops like the 2022 MacBook Air will probably still just about outperform these chips in terms of raw graphical capabilities (the base M2 is roughly comparable to an Nvidia RTX 3060) – but boosted iGPU power isn’t all Intel has up its sleeve.

MLID claims that laptop manufacturers could be looking at a serious step up in battery life with Intel’s new chips – something that Apple’s MacBooks have long lorded over competing hardware. The removal of a discrete GPU as a hardware requirement will save a lot of power, as well as potentially creating more space inside a laptop chassis for a bigger battery.

We’ve noted in the past that Meteor Lake could be amazing for laptop batteries, and this is further proof. With these new chips, the best ultrabooks could finally compete on a meaningful level with the incredible battery life of the latest MacBook Pro 14-inch (2023), without compromising on performance.

We really might not be that far off from seeing some amazing gaming laptops running on iGPUs; for whatever it’s worth, I really hope Intel (and AMD) can deliver. And based on the quarter it’s had, I’m sure its execs do, too…

MacBook Air 2022 open facing forwards on a table

With Apple M3 reportedly delayed to 2024, will the MacBook Air be able to keep up with this year's Intel laptops? (Image credit: Future)

Intel's problems are not unique to the California-based company; every tech firm has been struggling, between the war in Ukraine, manufacturing backlogs from COVID lockdowns, and a litany of global economic issues. An overall drop in laptop sales across the board hasn’t helped.

But Intel has been badly hit – as our friends at PCGamer have reported, Team Blue reported record losses in its most recent financial results, losing a whopping $2.8 billion in just three months, accompanied by a brutal 36% drop in overall revenue compared to the same period in 2022.

In a recent corporate statement, Intel claimed that it is “focused on identifying cost reductions and efficiency gains through multiple initiatives”, which is a polite way of saying that budgets will be slashed and staff will be let go. Here's hoping the new chips can steady the ship.

Christian Guyton
Editor, Computing

Christian is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing Editor. He came to us from Maximum PC magazine, where he fell in love with computer hardware and building PCs. He was a regular fixture amongst our freelance review team before making the jump to TechRadar, and can usually be found drooling over the latest high-end graphics card or gaming laptop before looking at his bank account balance and crying.

Christian is a keen campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights and the owner of a charming rescue dog named Lucy, having adopted her after he beat cancer in 2021. She keeps him fit and healthy through a combination of face-licking and long walks, and only occasionally barks at him to demand treats when he’s trying to work from home.