Tech Guides

Intel's Project Athena: What is it, performance, battery life, and more

By Kenny Yeo - 18 Oct 2019

Performance & conclusion

What notebook are we using?

The Lenovo Yoga C940 is part of the first wave of notebooks to meet Project Athena's criteria. It's highly similar to the Yoga S940 that is shown here. The difference being that the S940 is a traditional clamshell notebook.

The notebook we have on hand is the Lenovo Yoga C940. It’s the brand’s flagship ultra-slim 2-in-1 convertible notebook. Here are its key specifications:

  • 14-inch Full-HD IPS display
  • Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor
  • 16GB LPDDR4X memory
  • Intel Iris Plus graphics
  • 256GB SSD
  • 319.3 x 197.4 x 12.2mm
  • 1.17kg
  • 52Wh battery

The Yoga C940 is powered by Intel’s newest 10th generation Ice Lake processor and it’s paired with a generous amount of memory. It's really thin and light too ― just 12.2mm thick and a feather under 1.2kg. In my hands, it feels svelte and handy. I don’t foresee it being a problem to carry around.

The Lenovo Yoga S940 was unveiled earlier this year at CES 2019. Back then, it was powered by a 8th generation Core processor and it will be updated to Intel's newest 10th generation Core processors.

One thing to note, however, is that this unit is a pre-production sample and doesn’t have finalised drivers. As a result, some benchmarks didn’t complete and the results here shouldn’t be regarded as final. Nonetheless, it should give a good idea of the kind of performance and battery life one can get from a Project Athena-class notebook.

 

Performance

Take note: Project Athena notebooks won't necessarily be powered by Intel's newest 10th generation notebook. They can also use older 8th generation processors.

Performance in general productivity workloads was excellent as evidenced by the Yoga C940’s PCMark 10 results. It recorded higher scores than any other thin and light notebook that’s powered by Intel’s older 8th generation Whiskey Lake Core processor.

Intel made bold claims about the integrated graphics processor in its Ice Lake processors and the Yoga C940’s performance here was certainly encouraging. Thanks to its Iris Plus Graphics integrated GPU, the Yoga C940 was nearly twice as fast as the notebooks that were relying on the Intel UHD Graphics 620 integrated GPU in Tomb Raider. It even outperformed the Lenovo ThinkBook 13s which uses a discrete GPU in the form of AMD’s Radeon 540X. That said, NVIDIA’s GeForce MX150 still had the upper hand.

But don’t think for one moment that the new G7 Iris Plus graphics will let you play games. Switching over to a modern game (Far Cry 5) showed that there is still a long way to go before Intel’s integrated graphics solutions are truly game-ready. You'll need a beefy discrete GPU if you want to play the newest games at a reasonable resolution with normal graphics settings.

 

What about Wi-Fi 6? Will my Internet be faster?

Wi-Fi 6 promises better overall network performance.

Theoretically, yes. Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) will support streams with higher bandwidth. So to test, we used a Wi-Fi 6 router ― the recently reviewed ASUS RT-AX88U ― and measured the time it took to transfer a file downstream and upstream from a server device that was connected to the router via Ethernet. We repeated this at various ranges — 2, 5, and 10 metres.

Unsurprisingly, we found the Yoga C940, which is Wi-Fi 6-enabled, to be significantly faster (anywhere from 28% to as much as 90%) than last year’s HP Spectre x360, which only supports Wi-Fi 5.

Find out more about Wi-Fi 6 by reading these guides:

 

How's battery life?

The Yoga C940 exhibited really good battery life, despite having a relatively small 52Wh battery. Though it falls short of Intel’s 9-hour real-world criteria, bear in mind that our tests were done with the display at full brightness.

With that in mind, a 7 hour and 27 minute showing on the Modern Office workload is actually quite remarkable. I have no doubt that the Yoga C940 will comfortably exceed Intel’s target if we lowered the brightness by a couple of notches (the maximum brightness of the Yoga C940 is rated at 400 nits) to bring it more in line with the 250 nits brightness level that Intel uses for its own battery testing.

Looking at its Portability Index score, we can see that it almost rivals that of the ASUS Vivobook S14 and LG gram 14, two notebooks with huge batteries and designed specifically with long battery lives in mind.

 

So, what to make of Project Athena?

Project Athena is an admirable and commendable initiative.

The goal of Project Athena is to simplify the notebook buying process. It's to ensure that consumers who do buy a Project Athena notebook have one that is perfectly usable for everyday tasks and is, to a certain extent, future-proof.

Judging from what we have seen here, consumers who do buy a Project Athena notebook, especially one that features a newer 10th generation Ice Lake processor, will be getting a notebook that is more than powerful enough for everyday tasks like emails and web-browsing, and even some light gaming. Equally important is that it will have a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port and that it supports the new Wi-Fi 6 standard, which future-proofs it to some extent.

We are not sure this sticker is a strong enough message for consumers.

All things considered, Project Athena is a commendable and welcomed effort from Intel to make it easier for consumers to pick their ideal notebooks. Unfortunately, we are not convinced at this point that the actual branding is powerful enough for consumers. For a start, Project Athena is a codename, so consumers won’t actually see the words “Project Athena” anywhere on a notebook or in a store. Instead, all they’ll see is the early mentioned sticker that simply says “Engineered for Mobile Performance,” which, looks too generic and lacks a clear identity.

Still, these are early days yet and intel could yet tweak their marketing strategy. For now, it’s a step in the right direction to make buying notebooks easier for consumers.