Alder Lake is only the beginning for Intel's hybrid computing chips, and that's exactly why its gamble has to pay off. Either way, though, Intel's planning plenty of chips with a mix of big and little cores in its wake, such as Raptor Lake and Meteor Lake. Today's curiosity, however, is something a little more speculative, but also potentially quite exciting.
It's called Intel Arrow Lake, or perhaps Arrowlake, and it will be a generation of processors said to be planned with both high-performance 'Lion Cove' cores and 'Skymont' low-power cores. What we're looking at today are the potential mobile processors out of that generation, Arrowlake-P. According to YouTube leaker, AdoredTV (opens in new tab), it could come with up to 6 'big' cores and 8 'little' cores for both high-performance computing and low-power operation.
If that doesn't sound all that exciting, you wouldn't be wrong. Rather, it's the graphics silicon that has me intrigued as to what could yet arrive from Intel.
Arrowlake-P is reported with an iGPU featuring 320 EUs. That's potentially five times the max core count of 10th Gen Intel Ice Lake processors, and over three times 11th Gen Intel Tiger Lake's top 96 EU graphics component.
And we've seen that Tiger Lake is at least okay at 720p gaming, maybe even netting passable 1080p performance in the right game. A chip with more than three times that capability should manage okay at 1080p, if not higher, then.
Intel already offers the paltry DG1 GPU on desktop, with 80 EUs, but that's not much of a comparison. Instead, Intel's upcoming DG2 graphics card (opens in new tab) is rumoured to feature up to 512 EUs, so we will have a better idea of what sort of gaming performance could be on the way here once that arrives. The arrival of DG2 is meant to be happening sometime this year, under the Intel Xe-HPG banner, but plans can, and often do, change.
Much like the rumoured Arrow Lake generation could. But however these rumours shake out in the end, it represents a pretty intriguing chip generation, to say the least. The prospect of significantly improved iGPU capability on a mobile chip is definitely enticing, even if it is only in theory right now.
A step up in mobile iGPU performance would be a significant boon to mobile graphics without the need for a discrete GPU, which is a big win for compact laptops with more than a modicum of gaming capability. But it's also a potentially big win for Intel. The company is focusing more on its own graphics silicon with Intel Xe, and being able to offer greater GPU acceleration for a variety of workloads without a competitor's GPU will be a desirable outcome.
There's still a chance that the GPU within Arrow Lake is significantly different from the one we know as Intel Xe today, perhaps changing what constitutes an EU by definition. We sadly can't say with absolute certainty, well, anything about this chip.
What we can say is that such a large integrated graphics component would take up a lot of space, but Intel has been making a lot of noise about different packaging techniques recently. That could result in a graphics tile that sits separately from the general compute tile, affording both more space.
But with Intel seemingly hard at work to shake up its chip designs in new ways, not the least bit when it comes to mobile, I can definitely see something like this reported Arrow Lake chip releasing in earnest. Though, perhaps not outside of a few halo products or special use cases.
Further to this mobile chip, there's word of a desktop Arrow Lake processor with eight big cores and up to 32 little cores, but that's about as spurious as 'leaks' come, existing in nothing more than a list posted to a couple of forums (opens in new tab). It somewhat tallies with the mobile processor outlined by AdoredTV, at least, so perhaps there's rumblings of such a processor in a backroom of Intel's Santa Clara HQ. I'll need to hear something more concrete before I'm fully convinced.
Arrow Lake is said to turn up around 2023, although I imagine product roadmaps have become as set in stone as week-old jelly by now.