Intel’s 12th-Gen Alder Lake chip will bring the company’s hybrid architecture, which combines a mix of larger high-performance cores paired with smaller high-efficiency cores, to desktop x86 PCs for the first time. Intel has shared many of the architectural details at its Architecture Day 2021, but left out the key details, like pricing and specific models. As per usual, most of the information, including pricing, chip configurations and benchmarks, has leaked through retailer postings and benchmark utilities with online databases. We’ll cover all of those details below.
Alder Lake represents a massive strategic shift as Intel looks to regain the uncontested performance lead against AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series processors. AMD’s Zen 3 architecture has taken the lead in our Best CPUs for gaming and CPU Benchmarks hierarchy, partly on the strength of Ryzen’s higher core counts. That’s not to mention the pressure from Apple’s M1 processors that feature a similar hybrid design to Alder Lake and come with explosive single-threaded performance improvements of their own.
Intel’s Alder Lake brings disruptive new architectures and supports features like PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 that leapfrog AMD and Apple in connectivity technology and also outstrip Ryzen’s core counts in mobile designs.
It all starts with a new way of thinking for x86 chips by pairing high-performance and high-efficiency cores within a single chip. That well-traveled design philosophy powers billions of Arm chips, often referred to as Big.Little (Intel calls its implementation Big-Bigger), but it’s a first for x86 desktop PCs. The Golden Cove architecture powers Alder Lake’s ‘big’ high-performance cores, while the ‘little’ Atom efficiency cores come with the Gracemont architecture. Intel will etch the cores on its ‘Intel 7’ Enhanced SuperFin process, marking the company’s first truly new node for the desktop since 14nm debuted six long years ago
Intel is going all-in: the company will reunify its desktop and mobile lines with Alder Lake. Intel says it will tune Alder Lake for high-performance, a must for desktop PCs and high-end notebooks. There are also signs that some models will come with only the big cores active, which should perform exceedingly well in gaming.