The official word from Intel is that its 12th Gen Core processors based on Alder Lake will arrive in the second half of this year, leaving us to speculate a tighter time frame. Our assumption has been that Alder Lake will drop sometime early in the fourth quarter, but perhaps an earlier release is planned, based on an update Gigabyte made to its Aorus Waterforce X all-in-one CPU liquid cooler manual.
In the mounting bracket section of the manual (PDF), Gigabyte added instructions for installing the cooler on Intel's not-yet-released socket LGA 1700. That's the socket Alder Lake will use, with support for a new chipset family—almost definitely Z690 at the high end, unless Intel throws us a curveball.
The reference to LGA 1700 is not just in Gigabyte's online manual, either. Twitter user @momomo_us, who is prominent in the leaks and rumors scene, posted a photo of the actual paper manual (via Hardware Info) with the updated section added.
There are also photos of the physical mounting bracket in two different orientations—one configured for existing LGA 115x (1156, 1155, 1150, and 1151) and 1200 sockets, and another for the upcoming LGA 1700 socket. The LGA 1700 orientation is a little wider, with the lateral distance between mounting contacts measuring 78 by 78 millimeters, compared to 75 by 75 millimeters for LGA 115x/1200.
As for the standoff screws that must be used (and are included with the cooler), they are a tad shorter for LGA 1700, at 25.86 millimeters versus 26.66 millimeters. This means if you upgrade to Alder Lake later this year (or whenever) and own Gigabyte's cooler, you can bring it with you for your next build.
It also hints that Alder Lake is right around the bend, perhaps destined to release a little earlier than we thought. Either way, Gigabyte is ready for Alder Lake's debut, whenever that might be.
Alder Lake figures to be one of Intel's more interesting processor families in a long time. It represents a shift to a hybrid design, whereby Intel will be pairing high performance cores with power efficient cores on the same die, similar to Arm's big.LITTLE approach.
Intel's next-gen CPUs will also introduce support for cutting edge technologies, and namely DDR5 memory (DDR4 will be supported as well) and PCI Express 5.0. How it all comes together remains to be seen, but we're cautiously optimistic Alder Lake will be more exciting than Rocket Lake.