Intel announces 12th-gen Alder Lake CPUs: Our long 14 nm nightmare is over

Enlarge / Intel’s first Twelfth-generation desktop processors are arriving quickly.


Intel’s Eleventh-generation desktop processors, codenamed Rocket Lake, didn’t impress us much. They had been Intel’s sixth processor structure primarily based on some model of Intel’s 14 nm manufacturing course of and the primary to not use an iteration of the venerable Skylake core from 2015.

They did enhance efficiency, often, by backporting options from newer and quicker processor architectures. However while you add options with out bettering the manufacturing course of, you get precisely what Rocket Lake delivered: a processor that may be a bit quicker but additionally lots hotter, with a lot greater energy utilization than both the Tenth-generation Intel CPUs that preceded them or the AMD Ryzen 5000-series CPUs they compete in opposition to.

Now, Intel is making an attempt a course correction within the type of its Twelfth-generation core CPUs, codenamed Alder Lake. The primary six processors within the lineup can be found for preorder now and will likely be out there beginning November 4.

The brand new chips are Intel’s first desktop processors (outdoors of servers) to be manufactured on some model of the corporate’s 10 nm manufacturing, however you will not see “10 nm” in any of Intel’s advertising and marketing supplies or product pages. The method previously generally known as “10 nm Enhanced SuperFin” is now referred to as “Intel 7” as a result of the corporate says that its transistor density will likely be similar to 7 nm processes from competing foundries like TSMC and Samsung. Intel introduced its up to date manufacturing course of naming scheme earlier this year.

A brand new chapter for Intel’s desktop CPUs

Alder Lake alerts a big shift within the composition of Intel’s processors. The Twelfth-generation Core chips being introduced immediately all include a mixture of “efficiency” and “environment friendly” CPU cores, additionally referred to as P-cores and E-cores. The P-cores are the successors to the cores utilized in earlier desktop processors, with Hyperthreading help, 1.25MB of devoted L2 cache per core, and quick single-threaded efficiency. The E-cores can chip in to assist with closely threaded workloads however are usually meant to deal with background duties, do not help Hyperthreading, and are organized in four-core clusters with 2MB of shared L2 cache per cluster.

Intel's new K and KF-series Alder Lake processors.
Enlarge / Intel’s new Okay and KF-series Alder Lake processors.


The preliminary lineup contains three processor choices which might be being supplied with and with out built-in graphics, for a complete of six processors. The highest-end i9-12900K contains eight P-cores and eight E-cores, plus built-in graphics, for $589. The i7-12700K nonetheless has eight P-cores however steps all the way down to 4 E-cores and can run you $409. And the midrange i5-12600K contains six P-cores and 4 E-cores for $289. To get the value for any of the GPU-less KF variants of the processors, subtract $25.

The combination of cores signifies that the ratio of cores to threads is completely different from what we’re accustomed to with typical Intel and AMD CPUs. You get two threads per P-core however just one thread per E-core, which is why the 16-core i9-12900K has 24 threads as a substitute of 32, as an example.

Single-threaded P- and E-core performance, relative to Intel's 10th-generation desktop CPUs.
Enlarge / Single-threaded P- and E-core efficiency, relative to Intel’s Tenth-generation desktop CPUs.


These processors’ costs and better core counts will assist Intel compete higher with AMD in multithreaded workloads—AMD will promote you a 12-core, 24-thread Ryzen 9 5900X processor for round $560 and a 16-core, 32-thread 5950X for $750. Intel’s benchmarks are likely to keep away from evaluating Alder Lake CPUs to those AMD chips in multithreaded duties, preferring as a substitute to promote extra favorable comparisons to the thermally challenged 8-core, 16-thread i9-11900K. However improved efficiency from Alder Lake’s P-cores and the extra core depend from the E-cores ought to not less than assist shut the hole.

To place the P- and E-cores in context, Intel in contrast the single-threaded efficiency of each to Tenth-generation Comet Lake cores, the ultimate desktop iteration of Skylake. When operating on the identical clock pace, a Twelfth-generation P-core has about 28 p.c quicker efficiency than a Tenth-generation core, whereas an E-core is roughly equal to a Tenth-generation core. Intel says the E-cores can ship efficiency that is the same as Skylake whereas consuming simply 40 p.c of the ability.

A preview of the laptop versions of Intel's 12th-gen processors, with a 6P/8E-core laptop version and a 2P/8E-core ultra-mobile version.
Enlarge / A preview of the laptop computer variations of Intel’s Twelfth-gen processors, with a 6P/8E-core laptop computer model and a 2P/8E-core ultra-mobile model.


This mixture of “massive” and “little” cores has been widespread in telephones and tablets for some time now, and Apple additionally makes use of it in its numerous M1 chips. However to assist the setup perform higher with desktop working methods which might be accustomed to treating all cores the identical manner, Intel is utilizing one thing it calls the “thread director,” a hardware-level characteristic that works with the OS scheduler to direct sure duties to sure cores primarily based on the workload, energy limits, and warmth. Intel particularly talked about that the characteristic has been made to work effectively with Home windows 11 and that “out there options and performance differ by OS.”

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