Exclusive | Intel Evo 4.0 spec coming with Raptor Lake mobile may see the advent of 8 MP webcams with high VCX benchmark scores
Recently, we exclusively reported that laptops with Windows 11 coming this holiday will feature markedly improved webcams. This is due to Microsoft apparently enforcing some hard requirements on the specifications of webcams and real-time communication (RTC) hardware such as mics and speakers. Now, it looks like Intel has joined the fray too.
We now have another exclusive piece of information that the Intel Evo platform, which will see its third iteration with upcoming Alder Lake mobile processors, will also include webcam performance as part of the platform specifications. However, the full implementation of this may only begin with Evo 4.0 that is expected to debut in the generation after Alder Lake, which is likely Raptor Lake mobile.
Intel joins the VCX forum
Intel is now part of the VCX forum. For those not in the know, the Valued Camera eXperience (VCX) forum is a non-profit organization that evaluates cameras in mobile devices such as laptops, phones, drones, etc. VCX's benchmark suite v2020 includes selfie and rear camera tests under a variety of lighting conditions.
The benchmark considers various aspects of the image pipeline including resolution, motion control, texture loss, sharpness, colors, visual noise, dynamic range, shading, and distortion of a TE42 LL test chart under different lighting conditions. A final score is then calculated after doing the analysis.
Intel Evo 4.0 to use VCX scores and 8 MP cameras
We are getting to know that laptops that make use of Intel Evo 4.0 platform specifications must sport webcams that meet a few criteria. This includes achieving certain target VCX scores (the target values are not known at this point) and proper positioning of the camera. Cameras placed below the display or elsewhere except from direct line of sight in the top bezel get awarded negative points.
Intel Evo, or Athena 2.0 if you will, was introduced by Intel during the launch of Tiger Lake-U as a standardization platform for OEMs to ensure certain key experiences such as instant wake, long battery runtimes etc. are always guaranteed in Evo-branded laptops. Alder Lake mobile is expected to further build upon Evo, so it could be internally known as Evo 3.0 with Evo 4.0 likely belonging to the Raptor Lake generation. That being said, there is a possibility that Intel may implement some of the requirements with Alder Lake devices as it will apparently have benchmark VCX scores ready by Q1 2022.
Some of the other webcam recommendations that are likely to be part of Evo 4.0 include 8 MP cameras with an 80-degree field of view. For 2-in-1 devices, Intel currently mandates a ≥ 5 MP main camera. If using FHD sensors, the pixel size should be ≥ 1.4 microns. A security switch and LED status for the webcam are also recommended.
Evo 3.0, i.e. Alder Lake, will also provide for intelligent collaboration features via a dedicated camera app. Intelligent collaboration includes features such as background change/concealment and lighting adjustments. However, Intel drivers only work with Mobile Industry Processor Interface (MIPI) cameras. These constitute the vast majority of cameras found in laptops and mobile phones. OEMs opting for USB cameras should provide their own intelligent collaboration features keeping in mind the power consumption of the module.
Overall, it looks like the days of pathetic webcams on laptops are finally coming to an end. With both Microsoft and Intel enforcing these specifications, we might soon start seeing decent webcams that actually offer richer video collaboration experiences that are orders of magnitude better than today's implementations.