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Intel's new Whiskey Lake and Amber Lake chips promise faster Wi-Fi, longer battery life

Intel has unveiled the latest additions to its family of 8th-gen processors, promising faster Wi-Fi and longer battery life for laptops using the new U-series and Y-series.

Previously known under the codenames "Whiskey Lake" and "Amber Lake", laptops and 2-in-1s powered by the U-series and Y-series chips should arrive this Autumn, Intel said — expect laptops and their prices to start showing up this week at the IFA show in Berlin.

Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted that these are not the first U-series chips that Intel has released as part of its 8th-gen lineup. The company also launched U-series mobile processors as part of the Coffee Lake and Kaby Lake-R development cycles.

Confusingly, this will mean that there will be three different types of U-series processors in the market. As this is only a half-step upgrade from the existing 8th-gen processors, you'll be able to spot that devices have these chips and not the last round thanks to an "Optimised for Connectivity" sticker.

Key changes include support for Gigabit Wi-Fi, built-in voice assistant integration, and the promise of longer times between recharges — up to 19 hours, Intel has claimed. "Now with Gigabit Wi-Fi, we’ve enabled faster PC connectivity, added more intuitive voice experiences and enabled longer battery life needed for the next wave of mobile computing," said Chris Walker, vice president of the Client Computing Group and general manager of Intel's Mobile Client Platform, in a statement.

Intel is promising the U-series, formerly known as Whiskey Lake, will have twice the performance as a five-year-old PC in a 15-watt envelope with up to four cores and eight threads, as well as up to 16 PCIe lanes (up from 12), and support for USB3.1 Gen2. The lineup also includes Intel's Wireless-AC Gigabit Wi-Fi for the first time, and Intel claims that "many" laptops and 2-in-1s using the U-series will get ten hours of battery life on a single charge, with some pushing over 16 hours — and "power optimised" systems stretching to 19 hours.

The U-series processors will be available as the i3-8145U, i5-8265U, and i7-8565U — and that i7 model will also include Intel's new Thermal Velocity Boost feature for better single-core performance.

The Y-series, formerly known as the ultra low power Core M, also includes support for Gigabit Wi-Fi and LTE, and Intel promises double-digit performance gains versus the last generation. Those on touchscreen devices should notice better touch and stylus interaction. Intel says the platform enables thin and sleek devices — 7mm thin and less than 450g — as well as built-in facial recognition.

Y-series processors are a common fixture of mid-range notebooks, as they allow for a slimmed-down chassis thanks to better thermal efficiency and lower power consumption. However, the trade-off has historically been a reduction in performance compared to U-series or H-series chips.

You may have to get ready to start speaking to your laptop, too: both chipsets include built-in support for virtual voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana, so you can wake your computer with your voice.

Both the U-series and the Y-series are made on Intel's 14nm process; the 9th-gen Core chips on the 10nm process are expected next year.

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