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


Enlarge / Intel’s first 12th-generation desktop processors are arriving quickly.


Intel’s 11th-generation desktop processors, codenamed Rocket Lake, did not impress us a lot. 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 enhancing the manufacturing course of, you get precisely what Rocket Lake delivered: a processor that could be a bit quicker but in addition rather a lot hotter, with a lot larger energy utilization than both the 10th-generation Intel CPUs that preceded them or the AMD Ryzen 5000-series CPUs they compete in opposition to.

Now, Intel is trying a course correction within the type of its 12th-generation core CPUs, codenamed Alder Lake. The primary six processors within the lineup can be found for preorder now and can be accessible 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 often known as “10 nm Enhanced SuperFin” is now known as “Intel 7” as a result of the corporate says that its transistor density can be corresponding to 7 nm processes from competing foundries like TSMC and Samsung. Intel introduced its up to date manufacturing course of naming scheme earlier this yr.

A brand new chapter for Intel’s desktop CPUs

Alder Lake indicators a major shift within the composition of Intel’s processors. The 12th-generation Core chips being introduced immediately all include a mix of “efficiency” and “environment friendly” CPU cores, additionally known 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 typically 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 Ok and KF-series Alder Lake processors.


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

The combo of cores implies 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 i9-12900Ok has 24 threads as an alternative of 32, for 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 10th-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 an alternative to promote extra favorable comparisons to the thermally challenged 8-core, 16-thread i9-11900Ok. However improved efficiency from Alder Lake’s P-cores and the extra core depend from the E-cores ought to no 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 10th-generation Comet Lake cores, the ultimate desktop iteration of Skylake. When working on the similar clock pace, a 12th-generation P-core has about 28 % quicker efficiency than a 10th-generation core, whereas an E-core is roughly equal to a 10th-generation core. Intel says the E-cores can ship efficiency that is the same as Skylake whereas consuming simply 40 % of the facility.

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 12th-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 frequent 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 operate higher with desktop working methods which can be accustomed to treating all cores the identical manner, Intel is utilizing one thing it calls the “thread director,” a hardware-level function 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 function has been made to work nicely with Home windows 11 and that “accessible options and performance range by OS.”