The best part about last year’s MacBook Pro was the 8th-Gen H-Series processor Apple elected to put inside. The H-Series is meant for beefy laptops or bulky workstations, so finding it in something as thin and light as a 13-inch MacBook Pro was a welcome change of pace—mainly as it meant the MacBook Pro was leagues faster than competitors like the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre 13.
Now that H-Series is getting a refresh, and while that won’t necessarily mean an update to the MacBook Pro, it does mean you’ll be able to buy some faster laptops, at least until Intel’s long-delayed 10nm processors finally make an appearance later this year.
The 9th-Gen H-Series processors are based on the 14nm process that Intel has been using for the better part of half a decade. That’s potentially bad because its chief rival, AMD, already using a 12nm process and is moving to 7nm soon. A smaller process typically means the CPU will be faster and more efficient.
But Intel has done a decent job of really polishing its 14nm process. The company has refined it to the point that this new CPU really could be impressively fast—though probably not as fast or battery efficient as an eventual 10nm version.
There are some decent speed gains for the 9th-Gen H-series, primarily with regards to clock speed. Intel promises that its top-of-the-line CPU, the i9-9980HK will have a turbo clock speed of 5GHz, which means when it ramps things up, it should get to top performance quickly and get through the workload faster. The i9-9980HK is notably also the rare laptop CPU that can be overclocked. The rest of the H-series, ranging from the i5-9300H to the i9-9880H won’t have that ability, though Intel claims the i7-9850H will be “partially” unlockable.
Besides some modest improvements in speed, these new CPUs real magic comes from the chipset they’re operating on. The new Intel 300 series mobile chipset can support up to 128GB of DDR4 RAM, as well as Intel’s recently announced hybrid SSD and Optane drive, the H10. That drive should give you all the impressive speed boosts of Optane memory, coupled with an already speedy SSD storage drive.
The 300 series will also support Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax. That word soup means the potential for breakneck streaming speeds—up to three times faster than the current 802.11ac standard, provided your router supports 802.11ax and your ISP gives you enough bandwidth to enjoy those speeds. If all those caveats apply to you, then the new H-Series processors are worth getting excited about!
Razer, Asus, Dell, and Alienware have all announced refreshed lineups of gaming laptops with support for the H-Series, and other gaming laptop makers are expected to follow. Workstations might be slower to update, so don’t hold your breath on an Apple refresh.
Besides the new mobile processors, Intel also announced a whole line of desktop CPUs to fill out the desktop line up. They range in price from $122 for the i3-9100T to $440 for the i9-9900.