Ever since Intel introduced the Core i series of processors back in 2009 with the first generation Nehalem CPUs, the company has been using the i3, i5 and i7 monikers to distinguish entry-level, mainstream, and enthusiast. While Intel also later debuted the "i9" lineup, the same pattern has been followed for its laptop and notebook CPU lineups.
However, with its latest available 12th Gen Alder Lake P series mobile chips, it is found that the Core i7 parts are getting outperformed by the i5 counterparts. The report comes from NotebookCheck which has found this in its testing. Although the results for the Alder Lake P Core i5-1240P in a Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 Pro 14. The site notes:
After we took a closer look at the new Intel Core i7-1260P, we had the chance to review more new laptops with Intel’s new mobile CPUs and some of the results are surprising. We were worried that the actual performance only depends on the TDP configuration of each laptop and we were correct. Intel only specifies the maximum TDP power, so there can be massive performance differences even between two identical CPUs. The result so far is that the Core i5-1240P in the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 Pro 14 (review will be published end of next week) is the most powerful Alder Lake-P chip we tested so far ahead of the Core i7-1260P and Core i7-1270P.
While in a way people buying i5 laptops will be elated, those who purchase an Alder Lake P Core i7 will be sorely disappointed if they come to know their more expensive device gets smashed by another cheaper i5-based PC and this is in a way misleading. In this regard the report remarks:
It is also a problem for customers, because a Core i5 can be more powerful than a Core i7 and there can be massive performance differences in general.
The issue seems to arise out of the fact that the Intel Alder Lake P parts have high base and boost clocks and the i5-1240P in the Yoga Slim Pro 14 was seen gobbling up the entire 64W turbo power limit (PL2) provided by Intel. This means the higher i7 models have no more headroom to spread their legs and in devices that are calibrated for lower TDPs, the i5 will surely be better. Higher than 64W TDP designs are also highly unlikely in UP3 form factor compact devices that these Alder Lake P chips aim for.
For the Core i7 laptops to shine, the Alder Lake H lineup is probably the best place to start which offers up to a 115W PL2. Meanwhile, for the Core i9 laptop chips, the newest Alder Lake HX are probably suitable which take the PL2 all the way up to 157W.
The company also has Alder Lake U9 (PL1 = 9W) and Alder Lake U15 (PL1 = 15W) lineups and if the Alder Lake P is any indication, it is likely that the i7 processors will be held back in the U-series notebooks too, unless they have loads of power and temperature headroom available.