After numerous delays and setbacks in 10nm chip design, Intel finally launched its Ice Lake mobile processors in late 2019. On the desktop, however, 10 nm won't arrive until about two years after Ice Lake launched. Intel confirmed at CES earlier this year that Alder Lake will be rolling out towards the end of 2021 with an improved 10nm SuperFin process.
Although 10nm will soon be available on both desktop and mobile, Intel is still lagging behind rival AMD, which advanced to 7nm in 2019. However, Alder Lake is still very exciting, especially on the desktop, as the platform ushers in a new architecture that is focused on efficiency and performance. And with up to 16 cores, Intel is looking at the 16-core mainstream Ryzen CPU from AMD. Little information about the processor platform has been disclosed since Intel's CES teaser. However, here is everything we know so far about Intel's 12th generation Alder Lake processors.
Prices and availability
Court Mast / Intel via Getty Images
Intel announced that the 12th generation Alder Lake will hit the market in late 2021. We assume that the mobile version will be available first. This means that desktop variants of the chip are expected to arrive in early 2022, which coincides with a previously rumored timeline posted on Notebook Check. We assume that the Erlensee can already be announced in September after recent leaks.
Intel didn't announce its 10th generation Comet Lake-S for the desktop until late 2019, before arriving in the first half of 2020. This processor is based on Intel's 14 nm ++ process, making it the company's fifth optimization for this architecture.
Intel is expected to switch to its 11th generation Rocket Lake next on the desktop, which in turn will be based on Intel's 14nm design. A recent leak posted by SharkBay and posted by Wccftech suggests the chipset will come with Gen 12 Xe graphics, eight cores of processing power, and an overhaul of the Willow Cove microarchitecture that has been backported to 14nm.
Despite numerous leaks in recent months regarding Intel's silicon plans, the company offered no official insight into its future plans when pressed for comment by the EE Times.
At this point in time, pricing information for Alder Lake is not known. However, given recent rumors that the Intel Core i5-10500 processor is expected to retail for around $ 285, we expect a similar price point for the mid-range Alder Lake generation.
In the past, AMD undercut Intel's pricing, and the company's future Ryzen processors might as well. AMD recently announced that it has been slowly increasing profit margins for its chips in recent years, so the price gap between Alder Lake and AMD's Zen-based CPUs may be smaller than it has been in years past.
AMD's high-end desktop processor Ryzen 9 3950X with 16 cores and 32 threads is currently priced at $ 738. The high-end Intel Alder Lake with 16 cores is expected to compete with the premium processor from AMD.
Intel's Alder Lake is based on an improved 10nm process that the company calls 10nm SuperFin. Intel claims this process yields faster transistors and improved MIM capacitors in what is known as a "breakthrough in x86 architecture".
At CES, Intel confirmed previous leaks and rumors reported by Twitter user @momo_US and posted on the Chinese e-commerce website PTT, suggesting that a hybrid architecture will be introduced.
During the keynote presentation, executives from Intel stated that the hybrid design, similar to what Arm did with its silicon for smartphones and tablets, will also come to the desktop for the first time. This means that Alder Lake will be equipped with efficient cores for background and low-level tasks, as well as powerful cores to be deployed when applications need more power.
Intel will rely on its Atom-based design known as Gracemont for its efficiency cores, while the new Golden Cove cores will increase performance. Gracemont is expected to provide more instructions per clock and better vector performance.
Intel is expected to combine eight Gracemont cores with eight Golden Cove cores on its premium Alder Lake processor design for a total of 16 cores on the desktop, although other configurations will also be available. This makes it difficult to compare Intel's hybrid 16-core CPU with AMD's homogeneous architecture with the same number of cores, although changing a hybrid design should help Intel versus a new line of ARM-based processors like Apple's M1 and to pass Qualcomm's Snapdragon PC processors.
Based on a leaked Intel slide, Alder Lake's architectural change is expected to result in an improvement in single-thread performance by up to 20% thanks to the Golden Cove cores and an improved 10nm SuperFin design, and with Gracemont Cores leads to an up to 2-fold multithread performance gain.
Because of its heterogeneous architecture, early leaks show that Intel can combine between one and eight Golden Cove cores with four to eight Gracemont cores on mobile devices. This suggests that Alder Lake scales well and that power consumption on mobile devices starts at 5 watts. This should help Intel get longer battery life on notebooks. This is an important feature in order to compete with Apple's newest M1 silicon on the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Alder Lake is expected to succeed Tiger Lake in Intel's line of products on laptops, and the mobile variant is expected to be referred to as Alder Lake-P. These chips are designed for various notebooks and tablets.
On the desktop, an early leak revealed that Intel may also have a six-core version of Alder Lake. With this variant, Intel has all six cores based on the larger Golden Cove cores, which completely eliminates the smaller Gracemont cores. The six "big-core" variants of Alder Lake-S are expected to have a TDP (Thermal Design Power) of 80 watts, while the 16-core version can reach up to 125 watts, although Videocardz has suggested that Intel should have the Power could scale up to 150 watts for this design.
In a separate desktop leak from Alder Lake-S, the chip was shown in a benchmark with eight cores and 16 threads. This means that this configuration does not come with the Gracemont cores. This is likely due to the fact that the high-efficiency Intel cores do not offer Hyper-Threading support, according to Toms Hardware. The processor was shown at a clock speed of 3 GHz in a benchmark, although an earlier benchmark showed it at a frequency of 4 GHz.
Alder Lake will rely on the integrated GT1 graphics from Intel. Intel has invested heavily in its integrated graphics, and Generation 11 graphics will add some casual gaming performance to its Ice Lake laptops. We expect similar performance leaps on the desktop side.
As Moore's law slows down on the processor side, Intel is looking for improved graphics capabilities to support data analytics and artificial intelligence applications. The company recently demonstrated how creative workflows like video and photo editing can be accelerated with more powerful graphics. Intel is also working on its own discrete Xe GPUs based on the same architecture.
Other changes to Alder Lake include support for PCIe Gen 5 and PCIe Gen 4, as well as DDR5 and DDR4 memory. Thunderbolt 4 and WiFi 6E Gig + are also supported on Alder Lake.
Compared to current Rocket Lake processors, early rumors suggest that Alder Lake has seen a 20% increase in IPC thanks to the new Golden Cove cores. Given that Rocket Lake has already achieved a 19% IPC boost over the previous generation Comet Lake design, this should help Intel provide consistent profits for those who want to upgrade.
Intel has touched on the 10nm process, its heterogeneous architecture, and support for faster storage that is contributing to these gains, but there are still many unknowns about Alder Lake right now. The company hasn't released any details about clock speeds, and we don't know how the clock speeds on the different core types affect the overall performance of the CPU on a number of tasks, including productivity, video performance, and gaming.
An early benchmark created using a 16-core engineering sample from Alder Lake-S suggests that Intel's hybrid architecture is performing well. According to Videocardz, the 12th generation CPU with 16 cores and 24 threads outperformed the Intel Core i9-9900K on Geekbench 4.4. Because the chipset was an early sample, the benchmarking utility was unable to accurately measure the clock speed. Here the base speed was stated at 2.19 GHz, and it is likely that the boost speed of 27.2 GHz was a mistake. The publication speculates that the actual boost speed would be between 2.7 and 3.4 GHz.
A similarly configured 12th generation CPU was also recently discovered in the Ashes Escalation benchmark database, according to Hardware Times, and the clock speed was reported at 2.2 GHz.
An emergency solution up to 7nm
It's interesting that Intel is bringing this hybrid architecture to the desktop. On mobile devices, the company presented its big.LITTLE approach at Lakefield, which includes four Atom Tremont cores and one Sunny Cove core. It is speculated that Intel's motive for bringing this hybrid design to the desktop, where energy efficiency is not such a huge limitation, is to fill the gap until a 7nm desktop CPU can be launched.
The additional core could also help increase multithreaded performance. On Lakefield, high-performance tasks are performed in Sunny Cove while background threads are referenced to the Atom Tremont cores. In multithreaded applications, all cores are started up to increase performance. It is unclear how much performance gain can be achieved with a desktop design.
The hybrid big.LITTLE design could also be a last-minute decision, according to a report from Tom & # 39; s Hardware. It has been reported that the company initially did not want to commit to all 16 cores of the 10nm design. Eight large and eight small cores could have been a design compromise, while Intel was still able to achieve the 16 cores of the AMD mainstream Ryzen processor.
If the time frame for a launch expires between 2021 and 2022, AMD's 7nm process is likely mature, and a 5nm Zen 4 process could give it an IPC advantage over Alder Lake. AMD announced that it will rely on its 3D Infinity Fabric 3 packaging and chiplet expertise for its next-generation Zen 3 architecture, while Intel is relying on its acquisition of Foveros to power its high-performance cores with to package its atomic cores with low power consumption for efficiency. Like AMD, Intel has also confirmed that it will move towards 5nm in the future for better performance and energy efficiency.
With Alder Lake, Intel will switch to a new socket design. Alder Lake-S is expected to introduce the new LGA 1700 socket, which supports DDR5 and DDR4 memory along with PCIe Gen 5. A number of Asus boards that support the LGA 1700 socket and the Intel Z690 chipset were shown in HWiNFO, according to Wccftech.
The new socket also means that upgrades for this chip will require a new board. Unlike rival AMD, which has maintained socket consistency between successive generations of chipsets, Intel will use the LGA 1200 socket for its 10th generation Comet Lake-S CPU.
If Intel continues to change the socket design this quickly, it could limit the processor's appeal to high-end desktop users, gamers, and PC hobbyists who want the flexibility of just upgrading their silicon.
It's also unclear whether Intel will have the ability to fix the latest security vulnerabilities by the time Alder Lake launches. A security researcher discovered a vulnerability in Intel's Converged Security and Management Engine that may affect all Intel chips released in the past five years. Malicious actors could exploit the vulnerability to decrypt sensitive files when they gain access to a lost or stolen laptop, said security researcher Mark Ermolov.