New Intel Arrow Lake CPU leak suggests its NPU could be disappointingly weak

(Image credit: Intel)

A new Intel Arrow Lake leak suggests that the upcoming desktop processors will only feature a low-powered NPU, one that won’t past muster in terms of Microsoft‘s Copilot+ PC hardware requirements. 

As spotted by Videocardz, hardware leaker Jaykihn on X has posted what’s claimed to be a spec list for Intel Arrow Lake-S (desktop) which states that the NPU will only deliver 13 TOPS (trillion operations per second). For context, the current crop of recently released Qualcomm Snapdragon X-powered ‘AI PCs’ ship with a 45 TOPS NPU. 

Collection of various small improvements/changes shipping with Arrow Lake -S.All specifications are “up to”, except for TOPS, which may exceed the listed number on the retail product. 9, 2024

According to Microsoft’s Copilot+ PC minimum requirements, only chips with an integrated NPU that can achieve at least 40 TOPS are powerful enough to qualify. Should this leak turn out to be true, Arrow Lake desktop CPUs will fall very short of the necessary NPU goods for a Copilot+ PC.

Intel’s other next-gen processor range which is also due later this year will be very different, mind you: the incoming Lunar Lake chips, which are for laptops, will feature a 48 TOPS NPU. These CPUs should be in notebooks by the end of the year (although maybe not in volume until 2025), and are poised as a Qualcomm Snapdragon X rival (along with AMD‘s inbound Ryzen AI 300 series).

When all’s said and done, it appears that Copilot+ PCs are meant to be laptops only, and desktop PCs won’t be getting the same treatment as mobile parts in this respect – which arguably makes the inclusion of a low-powered NPU in Arrow Lake a somewhat puzzling addition. 

A confusing turn for AI computing?

Overall, then, the point of adding such a low-end NPU to a desktop processor as this specs sheet claims is questionable for Arrow Lake, and indeed doesn’t seem to make much sense at all.

It appears as though a neural processor will be included for the sake of it, rather than having any tangible benefit for desktop PCs. We will, of course, know more once Arrow Lake is officially unveiled, with any practical application demonstrated (hopefully). Take all this with a good amount of skepticism, though, as it’s all fodder from the rumor mill for now. 

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It’s looking likely that NPUs will be featured in multiple upcoming processor generations over the next few years, both mobile and, we guess, desktop too. Simply put, the ‘AI computing boom’ has a ton of momentum behind it, despite the actual use cases being on the vague side as things stand. Perhaps desktop PCs will be Copilot+ devices eventually – or maybe not, and they certainly won’t with Arrow Lake processors, apparently.

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Aleksha McLoughlin is an experienced hardware writer. She was previously the Hardware Editor for TechRadar Gaming until September 2023. During this time, she looked after buying guides and wrote hardware reviews, news, and features. She has also contributed hardware content to the likes of PC Gamer, Trusted Reviews, Dexerto, Expert Reviews, and Android Central. When she isn’t working, you’ll often find her in mosh pits at metal gigs and festivals or listening to whatever new black and death metal has debuted that week.

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