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Intel’s first 10nm desktop chips could be twice as fast as predecessor

After having previewed its 10nm Alder Lake chipset at CES — the processor  is expected to debut later this year on desktops and laptops — we are now learning more about Intel’s next-gen desktop silicon. According to a series of leaked slides, Intel’s Alder Lake processors will support faster DDR5 memory and the new PCIe Gen 5.0 interface.

PCIe 5.0 support would allow Intel to leapfrog rival AMD. While AMD was first to PCIe 4.0, the company isn’t expected to support PCIe 5.0 until 2022. PCIe 5.0 delivers some added benefits over PCIe 4.0, like double the bandwidth throughput for faster data transfers.

While PCI 5.0 and DDR5 memory will be supported on the new chipset, Intel’s leaked presentation deck revealed that Alder Lake will be backward compatible with older technologies, like PCIe 4 and 3 along with DDR4 memory.

And in addition to moving to a smaller 10nm SuperFin manufacturing process from the older 14nm process, the most significant change to Alder Lake will be Intel’s use of a heterogeneous architecture. Like the mobile processors designed by ARM, Intel has put its pedal to the silicon, and the upcoming Alder Lake chipset could get a boost of 20% in single-thread and 2x the performance in multi-thread tasks. Intel will, for the first time on a desktop, support a combination of high performance and high efficiency cores.

Source: Videocardz Image used with permission by copyright holder

According to the leaked slides obtained by Videocardz, this architecture will allow the company to extend single-thread performance by as much as 20% thanks to the use of the Golden Cove cores. It’s unclear if the company is comparing the performance of Alder Lake to 11th-Gen Tiger Lake or Rocket Lake. Alder Lake is expected to combine eight Golden Cove cores for high performance computing alongside more energy efficient Gracemont cores.

For multi-thread performance, Intel is crediting its Gracemont cores for delivering up to twice the performance. Again, we don’t know the baseline for Intel’s performance comparison here, but the chipset looks promising.

11th Gen Intel Core desktop processors (code-named “Rocket Lake-S”) deliver increased performance and speeds. Intel launched the processors on March 16, 2021. (Credit: Intel Corporation) Image used with permission by copyright holder

In a separate slide, Intel showed that Alder Lake will use a new LGA1700 socket, and Intel’s 600 series motherboard — like the upcoming Z690 — will be required for upgraders. This means that older boards likely won’t be compatible with Alder Lake.

Intel’s Alder Lake processor will not only have to compete against rival AMD’s upcoming Zen 4 microarchitecture, but the chipset will also be compared to Apple’s ARM-based silicon. Apple has to date released its Arm-based M1 processor on the Mac Mini, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro, and the chipset has been warmly received by fans for its strong performance and long battery life on mobile. Apple is expected to release a successor to the M1 that could go inside the long-rumored redesigned iMac and Mac Pro desktops.

If you’re waiting to see how Alder Lake stacks up, industry insiders speculate that Intel’s next-gen CPU will debut in the second half of the year. Likely, Intel will release its mobile part first, and the desktop variant of Alder Lake will debut after Intel debuts Alder Lake for laptops. Hopefully, by then, the global semiconductor shortage will have resolved itself.

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Chuong Nguyen
Silicon Valley-based technology reporter and Giants baseball fan who splits his time between Northern California and Southern…
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