Intel’s 10nm Alder Lake CPUs look set to deliver a major performance boost

The desktop chips are said to benefit from a hybrid configuration combining high-power and high-efficiency cores

Somebody placing a CPU component onto a circuit board

Intel's forthcoming 12th-gen Alder Lake CPUs will benefit from a significant performance boost against current-generation chips thanks to its redesigned architecture, a leak has suggested. 

Leaked slides suggest Intel’s 10nm Alder Lake processors will be twice as fast in multi-threaded workloads thanks to Gracemont Cores while boasting a 20% single-threaded performance boost in light of the new Golden Cove core design. It’s unclear, however, whether Intel is measuring these touted improvements against the performance of its Tiger Lake or Rocket Lake CPUs. 

The 10nm enhanced SuperFin CPUs benefit from these performance enhancements because it features a combination of eight small, high-efficiency Gracemont cores and eight big, high-performance Golden Cove cores, according to VideoCardz

The 12th-gen Intel Core Alder Lake chips, designed to be fitted into desktop PCs, were first teased at CES in January, with the chipmaker pencilling them in for a launch during the second half of 2021. 

The company claimed, at the time, that these CPUs would be its most power-scalable yet, and would represent a significant breakthrough in x86 architecture. They will also be the first to be built on Intel’s enhanced version of 10nm SuperFin design, which the leaked slides detail in far more depth.

The leaks also point to support for PCI Express Gen4 and Gen5, as well as support for DDR4 and DDR5 RAM, Wi-Fi 6 and Thunderbolt 4. Mobile CPUs based on the Alder Lake architecture will also benefit from LPDDR4 and LPDDR5 RAM support. 

Rumours have suggested that Intel’s Alder Lake CPUs would benefit from this redesigned architecture, with a mix of high-power and high-efficiency cores. Chinese publication HKEPC, for instance, echoed these recent leaks in February with a claim that the 10nm CPUs would offer a 20% performance boost.

The hybrid configuration would be designed in a similar way to ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture, although this configuration is normally used in mobile devices, not high-performance machines such as desktop PCs. 

Intel raised eyebrows when first revealing it would pursue this hybrid configuration, with sceptics doubting whether desktop CPUs would reap any benefit from the high-efficiency Gracemont cores. This is because these small, high-efficiency units are normally fitted into notebook CPUs to reduce power consumption and preserve battery life.

AMD’s CVP and product CTO, Joe Macri, in November, even made a dig at this form of hybrid architecture, questioning its purpose and merits if designed for desktop CPUs, according to PC Gamer

“Is the goal power efficiency? Is the goal more performance? Is the goal just marketing, 'I want more core count', regardless of what it does for the other two variables?,” he said. "At AMD, the marketing one we're going to throw out the window. We're not going to do it just to have a bigger number."

The Alder Lake CPUs will be Intel’s first desktop CPUs to feature a 10nm process node, alongside being the first desktop processors to feature Intel's hybrid configuration. 

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