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 (opens in new tab) chips coming in the latter half of 2021.
Along with launching a new segment of gaming laptop (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab) 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.