Intel has a new generation of desktop chips launching at CES 2021, also known as Rocket Lake-S. However, the company is already talking about its replacement, which is set to come as early as the second half of 2021. It’s possible that Rocket Lake will only be in circulation for a few months before attention will shift toward Alder Lake-S, its successor.
Why the quick turnaround? Well, Alder Lake is an incredibly important launch for Intel. The company’s transition to 10nm has been a long and arduous roll-out. It started in 2019 with the launch of Ice Lake, the company’s first 10nm chips. The release was limited to thin-and-light laptops with 15-watt TDPs. Only now are we seeing the 10nm node being used in 35-watt H-series gaming laptops, with 45-watt chips on the near horizon.
By the time Alder Lake comes out, it will have been two full years since Ice Lake. All the while, AMD has enjoyed the success of TSMC’s 7nm node ever since last year.
That’s why it’s important than ever that Intel continues to talk about and demonstrate the success of its 10nm node.
According to the latest announcements from Intel, Alder Lake will be built on a “new, enhanced version of 10nm SuperFin,” the transistor redesign that launched in its Tiger Lake chips in 2020. At that time, Intel said the refined transistor design resulted in the “largest single intranode enhancement in its history” and “performance improvement comparable to a full node transition.” The results were as Intel promised, boosting Tiger Lake by more than I thought would have been possible.
Will that same performance jump also apply to Alder Lake? Intel seems confident that it will. The new chips will “combine high-performance cores and high-efficiency cores into a single product,” according to Intel’s press release. The “high-efficiency cores” will be the latest version of Intel’s Atom cores, now known as Tremont. Intel has been working on these hybrid processors for years, most recently in mobile products like Lakefield. Alder Lake will be the first time it’s seen on a mainstream product and in a desktop chip.
Alder Lake will also debut Intel Xe integrated graphics on Intel’s desktop offerings for the first time.
Intel says these Alder Lake chips are due out in the second half of 2021. Launching two generations of desktop processors in one year is unprecedented for Intel. But with the clock ticking on its 10nm transition, Alder Lake can’t come soon enough.
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