Intel’s Whiskey Lake Contains Some Mitigation for Spectre, Meltdown, and Foreshadow

Intel’s Whiskey Lake Contains Some Mitigation for Spectre, Meltdown, and Foreshadow

When Intel launched Whiskey Lake and Amber Lake earlier this week, we noted that the CPUs were an exceedingly minimal refresh, with some new chipset features and higher single-core Turbo clocks, but precious little else. According to Intel’s briefing, which wfoojjaec attended, these small features constituted the only step forward for the SoCs. We thought this explained by the fact that Intel was never intending to drop another 14nm refresh in the first place.

It turns out that’s not the case. Credit for chasing down the situation goes to Anandtech. The new Whiskey Lake CPUs do contain some hardware mitigations for these security issues, though the Amber Lake CPUs do not. Anandtech has a new chart showing how the mitigations in Whiskey Lake compare to what’s coming for Cascade Lake later this year.

Image by Anandtech
Image by Anandtech

Most of the same fixes baked into Cascade Lake are also present in Whiskey Lake, though not the Variant 2 hardware fix that actually whacks performance the hardest in impacted systems. But consumer systems don’t tend to be as impacted by these changes — there are some cases of performance declines, but they aren’t enormous — and Whiskey Lake does offer at least some improved incremental protection and forward movement on these issues.

Also, Whiskey Lake is built on the same 14nm++ process node that Intel uses for Coffee Lake. This information also wasn’t disclosed in the original Intel briefing (we’ll update the original story) but this explains how the company managed to significantly raise turbo clocks in the mobile parts. In fact, it also gives us some optimism about the chances that the CPUs will hold those clocks over a longer period of time than we would’ve felt otherwise. On the whole, the Coffee Lake CPUs have featured higher clocks and turbos, and if Intel can squeeze some of that performance into smaller form factors, the result should be a larger (if still small, in absolute terms) increase in overall performance.

Amber Lake, in contrast, is still a Kaby Lake-class CPU built on 14nm+. Again, this makes sense. Coffee Lake explicitly gave back some low power optimization to improve its higher-end performance, and Amber Lake is a 5W CPU.

So there you have it. The amended version of Whiskey Lake has a few features and capabilities we weren’t previously informed of, and while they may not significantly impact your buying decisions, they’re details we would’ve liked to present earlier this week during the initial announcement.

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