Intel demos Alder Lake CPU with new enhanced 10nm SuperFin process. Are we on SuperFin+ now?

Alder Lake
Executive Vice President Gregory Bryant showing Alder Lake powered on and running on a Windows PC. (Image credit: Intel)

During Intel's 'Do More With the Power of Computing' at CES, we caught a glimpse of what to expect this year from the computing giant, including a demo of the Intel Alder Lake chips coming in the latter half of 2021. 

Along with launching a new segment of gaming laptop, previewing the new line of 11th Gen Intel Core H-Series mobile processors, we also got a peek at Rocket Lake-S aka the next generation of Intel desktop gaming processors. But Intel ended the show by giving us a sneak peek at the next, next generation of CPU, Alder Lake, powered up and running on a Windows machine. 

Intel claims that the next-gen processor represents a "significant breakthrough in x86 architecture" as the most power-scalable chip with its super combo of high performance and high-efficiency cores into one product; the same big.LITTLE technique Intel has used with its Lakefield chip. 

Intel also announced Alder Lake is built on an enhanced version of 10nm SuperFin process, with speedier transistors and improved MIM Capacitors. So, is that 10nm SuperFin+, SuperFinE (for enhanced, but pronounced Super Fiiiiiiiiiiiine), or are we just sticking with Enhanced 10nm SuperFin? 

Unfortunately, we didn't see any benchmarks, nor any hard numbers directly comparing to the competition. So this is literally an "it's powered on, it's mostly working" kinda thing with engineering sample processors.

With eight powerful Golden Cove cores (next-gen successors to the Willow Cove design currently running Tiger Lake) and eight power-efficient Gracemont cores (next-gen Atom cores) we'll end up with a hybrid 16-core design. There will be some HyperThreading involved, but according to early mentions in benchmark databases only the high-end cores will get it.

That will then deliver an offset 24-thread hybrid CPU that is going to provide a lot of power and a lot of challenges for software.

We've mentioned before that Alder Lake's hybrid approach aims to give AMD Ryzen's chip a run for its money, but it's also going to all come down to what the risky hybrid chips actually look like to the Windows operating system. Will Microsoft's scheduler be smart enough to always push vital processes to the big, powerful cores, or are we going to see a confused OS not knowing where to turn?

During the presentation, Intel Executive Vice President Gregory Bryant said that Intel wants Alder Lake to "serve as the foundation for leadership desktop and mobile processors that deliver smarter, faster and more efficient real-world computing."

The hardware might be outstanding, but if the software side isn't nailed down with Alder Lake it could be a total non-starter. Either way it's an incredibly exciting architecture however it turns out. 

Jorge Jimenez
Hardware writer, Human Pop-Tart

Jorge is a hardware writer from the enchanted lands of New Jersey. When he's not filling the office with the smell of Pop-Tarts, he's reviewing all sorts of gaming hardware, from laptops with the latest mobile GPUs to gaming chairs with built-in back massagers. He's been covering games and tech for over ten years and has written for Dualshockers, WCCFtech, Tom's Guide, and a bunch of other places on the world wide web.