Following up to our first Tiger Lake review, today we're taking a look at Intel’s flagship 11th generation mobile processor, the Core i7-1185G7. The CPU we looked at before, the Core i7-1165G7, is seen in far more laptops on the market and is going be the primary focus for most laptop buyers, however the 1185G7 is technically the faster CPU and the chip that sits right at the top of the table.
If you missed the previous review and want to learn more about Tiger Lake’s architecture and new features, we strongly recommend you check that out first. In particular, the review of the Core i7-1165G7 talks about the differences between this 11th-gen line and previous 10th-gen parts like Ice Lake. Our main focus in this article will be comparing the 1185G7 to the 1165G7, to see if this faster CPU is actually worth buying.
So how does the 1185G7 differ to the parts below it? Well, not in many ways to be honest. We’re still looking at the same design, sporting four Willow Cove CPU cores with eight threads, and an Xe-LP GPU with 96 execution units. The only real difference is in frequency: the max single core turbo increases from 4.7 to 4.8 GHz, while the base clock at 28W rises from 2.8 to 3.0 GHz. There’s also a 50 MHz gain to max graphics frequency, which is hardly worth talking about. Feature support otherwise is identical, as is the 12MB of L3 cache.
|Intel UP3||Graphics||Cores / Threads||Graphics (EUs)||Cache||Operating Range||Base Freq (GHz)||Max Single Core (GHz)||Max All Core (GHz)||Graphics Max (GHz)|
|Core i7-1185G7||Iris Xe||4/8||96||12MB||12-28W||3.0||4.8||4.3||1.35|
|Core i7-1165G7||Iris Xe||4/8||96||12MB||12-28W||2.8||4.7||4.1||1.30|
|Core i5-1135G7||Iris Xe||4/8||80||8MB||12-28W||2.4||4.2||3.8||1.30|
Judging purely on specifications, the 1185G7 is essentially a better binned version of the 1165G7 that allows those slightly higher clocks within the same power envelope.
Intel are likely taking the best Tiger Lake silicon they have, the best that 10nm SuperFin can do in this power class, and allocating those as Core i7-1185G7 CPUs.
While the customer price for this part is the same as the 1165G7 -- $426 as listed in Ark -- the realities of OEM pricing are complex with all sorts of bulk deals and discounts, so in practice it’s unlikely that an 1165G7 would actually be the same cost to integrate as Intel’s better CPU, otherwise every vendor would just use the faster part.
For today’s testing we're using the MSI Stealth 15M, a unique laptop that’s a hybrid of MSI’s gaming laptop designs with their more ultraportable designs. This is a very compact design for something with a 15-inch display, at just 3.8 lbs and 16mm thick. But inside you’re getting a Core i7-1185G7 and GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q graphics, with at least 16GB of dual-channel DDR4-3200 memory.
Rather than using an H-series CPU in this laptop, MSI have prioritized graphics performance given the machine's dimensions and cooling, opting for the 1185G7 instead.
Default power configurations for the Stealth 15M allow the CPU to push up to and beyond 40W of sustained power at times, above the maximum official cTDP spec up to 28W.
We’d love to have tested this mode and also test with the discrete GPU enabled, but due to the limited amount of time we had with the laptop, we had to stick to our regular configurations that focused on the 1185G7 at relevant power levels. This means that like our testing for every other laptop CPU so far, we’ve got data for the 1185G7 running at 15W and 28W, with the boost behavior left in tact.
The idea here is to give a general look at performance that tries to remove as many OEM-specific configurations and bottlenecks as possible. This normalized testing allows you to see how much performance you can get out of a given laptop cooling design, as of course more power hungry parts require larger, heavier and often louder coolers, so it’s not really fair to compare a 15W CPU to a 28W CPU, for example.
This is the usual spiel for our laptop testing, if you seen our benchmark reviews before this is how we’ve been doing it for quite some time now. Those after laptops that are super thin and portable should more focus on the 15W numbers, while those after a larger, more premium design should look at the 28W performance.
We’ll start off benchmarking with Cinebench R20 where the 1185G7 delivers the same performance as the 1165G7. A little slower at 15W on average, and a little faster at 28W, though this could be down to the laptops we tested, the boost periods, and so on.
The takeaway for multi-thread performance is that you probably won’t be getting a significantly improved experience opting for the 1185G7 over the 1165G7, unless your 1185G7 laptop gives you access to more power, like the Stealth M15 does by default.
Single thread performance is more interesting. At 28W as expected, the 1185G7 is able to clock 100 MHz higher on a single core, which in our testing led to a small but perceptible improvement to Cinebench R20 single-thread. We’re only talking ~2 percent higher clock speeds, so the gains are in line with that.
At 15W, the 1185G7 system was actually slower than the average 1165G7 result we’ve seen, with both of those configurations power constrained and unable to hit their maximum turbo clock.
In Handbrake, the 1185G7 is slightly faster than the 1165G7, pointing to slightly better binning that allows for higher clock speeds in sustained multithreaded workloads within the same power limit.
At both power limits the 1185G7 ended up five percent faster, although this doesn’t allow Tiger Lake to make any meaningful strides at closing the gap to Ryzen Mobile 4000 in multi-thread tests: we’re still at least 40 percent behind the flagship Ryzen 7 4800U with its 8 core CPU.
In Blender, the two top end Core i7 parts from Intel’s Tiger Lake line deliver essentially the same performance.
Like with Handbrake, Ryzen is considerably faster in this workload, so you should consider them instead of Intel if this application matters to you.
For code compilation there’s a marginal difference between the i7-1185G7 and i7-1165G7 in both of our benchmarks. Here with compiling GCC, the 1185G7 is slightly slower than the 1165G7, while with Chromium compilation it’s slightly faster. Not groundbreaking stuff really.
Let’s breeze through some more tests. In Microsoft Excel, the 1185G7 is marginally slower at 15W and marginally faster at 28W compared to the 1165G7, but the difference is basically negligible.
In PCMark’s Essentials workload the 1185G7 ended up slightly slower than the 1165G7.
One of the biggest wins for the 1185G7 is in PCMark 10’s Applications workload, which benchmarks the Microsoft Office suite as well as Edge browser.
The 1185G7 was measurably faster, 9 percent faster at 28W and 8 percent faster at 15W, which is a handy boost to performance. This extended the lead Intel holds over Ryzen, with a huge 24 percent performance gap to the Ryzen 7 4800U at the higher power configuration.
In 7-Zip, we’re back to narrow margins between the 1185G7 and 1165G7. The higher end SKU creeps slightly up the charts but the difference doesn’t meaningfully change Intel’s position in the market versus Ryzen.
Acrobat PDF exporting is similar to other single-threaded tests in that the 1185G7 is faster than the 1165G7, but only when the additional frequency can be accessed.
For that to happen, the CPU needs to be configured in its higher power state, those gains aren’t there at 15W. So what we end up with is a negligible gain at 15W, but 4 percent more performance at 28W.
Adobe Photoshop performance was slightly strange in that the 1185G7 wasn’t faster than the 1165G7 at 28W, although we are talking about less than a five percent difference. I believe the LPDDR4X configurations that are being averaged into these numbers for the 1165G7 are impacting performance somewhat, although at 15W performance is very similar.
Our last test is hardware accelerated Handbrake encoding, where we see no performance difference between the two Tiger Lake CPUs.
While we didn’t do extensive GPU or game testing for this review, we couldn't spot any significant differences between media acceleration and integrated GPU performance, as these elements are identical in both CPUs.
Core i7-1185G7 vs Core i7-1165G7
We could have gone deeper with testing but our time with the MSI laptop was limited and for the battery of tests that we did run, as you can see, we don’t think there's much more to be learned. There’s not much separating the 1165G7 and 1185G7 in practice.
When looking at a benchmark breakdown between the two parts, it’s indicative of two products that deliver roughly the same performance. Due to differences in laptop configurations, at times the 1185G7 is slower, and at times the 1185G7 is faster.
You’re more likely to see these gains in single-threaded or longer term workloads, where the 1185G7 was up to 9 percent faster. But on average across these benchmarks, the 1185G7 was a mere 1.2 percent faster, which is within the margin of error.
It’s the same story at 15W, but with even narrower margins. On average these two parts deliver the same performance in this power class based on our testing. That’s not an exciting conclusion, but it's useful information if you're buying a new laptop and wonder if paying extra for the "faster" chip in the same laptop is worth your time and money (... or not).
Tiger Lake vs. Ryzen
As the 1185G7 doesn’t significantly improve upon the performance of the 1165G7, it also doesn’t change the comparison between Tiger Lake and AMD's Ryzen 7 4800U.
Intel’s Tiger Lake remains the faster platform for single threaded workloads like Microsoft Office and Cinebench single thread, while Ryzen is substantially faster in most multi-threaded tests like CPU-based video encoding.
The margins are the slimmest at 28W, and grow more in favor of AMD at 15W, as AMD’s design is more efficient and scales better down to lower power classes.
What We Learned
Overall the Intel Core i7-1185G7 is not a very exciting product, at least in comparison to the i7-1165G7 which we covered previously. The differences between these parts are minimal in terms of both specs and ultimately, performance.
This makes the i7-1185G7 kind of pointless. If there were two laptops configurations available offering both chips, but the 1185G7 laptop was more expensive due to its higher tier processor, there is no way we’d recommend spending the extra cash on the flagship CPU because it offers very little tangible advantage.
Of course, if both laptop options were sold for the same price, by all means go with the 1185G7. If you were choosing an upgrade, other factors like build quality, battery life, display and other hardware are all far more important than getting an 1185G7 over 1165G7.
The narrow margins separating these two parts also makes it tricky for buyers to know exactly which laptop option will be faster in practice... for example, a premium Core i7-1165G7 model running at 28W will almost certainly be faster than a mid-range Core i7-1185G7 laptop that only goes up to 20W, despite the mid-range system having the “better” processor.
This makes it very important to read reviews and do your research, as the naming and Tiger Lake SKU list will be of little help.
The flip side to this example is also possible, and that’s the case with the MSI Stealth 15M. To differentiate this product, MSI have pushed the power limit up to 40W, making the 1185G7 in this system noticeably faster than the 1165G7. But it’s critical to understand this comes down to a difference in power limits and cooling capacity, as opposed to the CPU itself.
The Stealth 15M would likely have been just as good with the 1165G7 inside, so maybe MSI felt the need to include the 1185G7 to give this system a differentiating factor over other models. After all, this is one of few laptops we’ve seen with the 85G7 in it, almost every other premium Tiger Lake model has opted for the 65G7 instead, including Intel’s own NUC reference design.
Bottom line, our thoughts about the 1165G7 also apply to the 1185G7. We think these high end Tiger Lake processors are well suited to everyday laptop users who primarily web browse, use office applications and might want to do some light gaming.
Meanwhile, for heavy CPU processing work on the go, AMD provides more of an H-series like experience and are faster than 11th-gen options. It will take Intel an actual eight core design to compete, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens there. We also have Zen 3 mobile chips on the way, which will heat up the mobile processor battle further. We're certainly looking forward to see all that new technology in 2021.