At its Intel Architecture Day event, the firm presented Alder Lake. This name represents the new generation of processors of the firm which must put it back in the foreground. Big stakes and big promises.
Intel wants to reinvent itself. This is essentially what the firm has been working on for several months: new boss, new aesthetic, new philosophy and new products. For the consumer, it is this last element that will determine the purchase or not. Facing ARM, especially since the abandonment of Intel processors by Apple, and processors AMD Ryzen preferred by gamers, Intel had to react.
This response must include the marketing of Alder Lake, the new generation of Intel processors scheduled for the end of 2021 and the first to use a hybrid architecture.
From the hybrid of the ultraportable to the war PC
In its presentation, Intel insisted on its ability to design all the bricks that make up a modern hybrid processor. On an Alder Lake SoC, we will obviously find high-performance cores and low consumption cores, but also a graphics chip and the elements that will manage memory and I / O among other things. To manufacture its hybrid processor, Intel therefore only has to assemble these bricks as it sees fit to meet different needs.
For an ultra mobile processor, Intel can limit the I / O for PCI Express, put a little more weight on the graphics circuit and on low consumption cores, unlike a desktop PC processor which can limit its graphics chip and bet on more I / O. In short, Intel is becoming much more agile with this solution.
Alder Lake chips are manufactured in 7 nm with the Intel 7 process and will be expressed on PC with the new LGA1700 socket. You will therefore need a new motherboard to take advantage of it.
More efficient cores
Depending on the references, an Alder Lake processor can therefore be made up of a different number of low consumption (E-Core) and high performance (P-Core) cores. A mobile processor can use 2 E-Cores and 2 P-Cores, while a desktop processor can integrate 2 E-Cores and 8 P-Cores.
The management of the different cores is carried out in a hardware by the Intel Thread Director, a new component, which allows you to be agnostic for the software. Thus, there is no need to specifically develop applications to take advantage of the heterogeneous architecture, nor for the OS to adapt. Microsoft was still very happy to announce that Windows 11 was going to make an extra effort compared to previous versions of the system, to optimize Thread Director performance.
P-Cores, high-performance cores use the new Golden Cove microarchitecture. Intel promises a 19% increase in performance at equal frequency compared to 11th generation Intel Core. This is much more important than the performance gains usually announced by Intel from generation to generation.
The E-Cores will use the Gracemont architecture which was also presented by Intel during the Intel Architecture Day. This architecture will also be used to create entry-level Intel Pentium or Celeron processors, intended for the most accessible PCs.
The latest technologies: PCI Express 5.0 and DDR5
The SoC of a PC has become its nerve center: this is where more and more connection with the inputs / outputs of the machine is managed. This is a subject on which Intel had lagged behind AMD, which was adopting new technologies at a rapid pace. With Alder Lake, Intel overtakes its direct competitor and offers the fastest on the market.
In addition to Wi-Fi 6E, which will be generalized on ultraportables, and Thunderbolt 4, already well adopted by manufacturers, Intel announces that Alder Lake will support PCI Express 5.0 and DDR5 memory. This is a first on PC. PCI Express 5.0 doubles the bandwidth to reach up to 64 Gb / s with 16 lanes. PCI Express has gained new uses on PCs with the rise in popularity of acquisition cards for streaming, but also and especially the arrival of NVMe SSDs connecting directly to PCIe. Note that the 16 PCI Express 5.0 lines are in addition to 4 PCIe 4.0 lines also managed by Alder Lake.
On the RAM side, we are talking about a management of DDR5-4800 and LPDDR5-5200 which will make it possible to increase performance. Above all, this will allow you to have a certain peace of mind when buying an Alder Lake PC: we are leaving for a good generation of associated components. If AMD does not have an answer to offer at the end of the year, it could easily tip the balance in favor of Intel.