Raptor Lake was a last minute addition to Intel's CPU roadmap, but promises a serious speed boost

Intel Core i9 12900KS processor
(Image credit: Future)

Intel's upcoming Raptor Lake processors were not on the roadmap until two years ago, when Intel decided to rush to battle stations and get to work on what would become the 13th Gen.

Intel's Isic Silas, general manager of client platforms and corporate VP, confirmed today at the Technology Tour here in Israel, that Raptor Lake was something of a last-minute (in CPU roadmap terms) addition to Intel's roadmap. Usually Intel would plan chips for many years in advance. Even if the public doesn't necessarily know about it. Raptor Lake, however, was a relatively late addition.

"Raptor Lake was not on the Intel roadmap just two years ago, there was supposed to be another product," Silas tells us.

"So we predicted, okay, the next one, which was very complex from an architecture point of view, would not make it on time. So we have two options, one to close our eyes and say everything should be okay and I can go and pray to the synagogue and make it happen.

"The other option was to go back to management to give us some small amount of resources in order to do a product and this is where we started Raptor Lake."

Intel then set out to make something out of the 12th Gen Alder Lake architecture that would take the form of the 13th Gen. That's not necessarily easy, though Silas says there was plenty of impetus to find increased performance somewhere on account of what it would be up against in the market.

Starting out with a performance expectation of around 16 - 20% multi-threaded performance increase over Alder Lake, the design team quickly realised it needed to go further, for two reasons.

"One, we have much more competition than we thought," says Silas. "Second, we internalised the fact that Raptor Lake needs more time in the market."

The Raptor Lake processor architecture, launching sometime soon, is going to have to lead Intel's charge against AMD's Zen 4 architecture until Meteor Lake pops up late in 2023. It's the result of a lot of back and forth with multiple departments and teams to make something out of an architecture and process that's in many ways similar to Alder Lake. 

Intel says 6GHz clocks are within reach on these new chips.

However, there will be few key changes. "We have a very small change to the Raptor Lake core, to the P-core," says Silas, "we have no changes at all to the idea of the E-cores, no changes to the graphics."

Intel is still playing it coy with the full details, but generally the performance is reportedly looking good. Intel is talking about a 15% single thread performance improvement over Alder Lake, and up to 40% higher multi-threaded performance. By comparison, AMD's competing CPU architecture, Zen 4, is promising its Ryzen 7000-series processors can deliver up to 13% higher IPC than its own predecessor.

As Silas explains, to reach this sort of uplift in performance is, considering it's ostensibly the "same architecture, same process. In my view, a miracle."

Intel has begun teasing some of what we can expect from the coming 13th Gen chips. For one, Intel says 6GHz clocks are within reach on these new chips, which would be quite a milestone, it wasn't too long ago that 5GHz became a more mundane target. Of course, there are also plenty of rumours as to what Intel might have in store with its upcoming chips, if you're curious.

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(Image credit: Future)

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The next-gen product to follow Raptor Lake is Meteor Lake, the chip generation set to use Intel's new tiled approach in CPUs and one which promises a big uplift in integrated graphics performance. Though that's currently set to arrive sometime in 2023 by today's roadmaps. I'm told that Intel considers this chip to be on track to launch on time—as in, Meteor Lake's current release window is accurate and up-to-date—and that the roadmap was adjusted around the time Pat Gelsinger arrived at the company as new CEO. 

Though we don't have an exact date for Meteor Lake's launch, this time next year sounds as good a guess as ever.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, and would later go on to win command of the kit cupboard as hardware editor. Since then he's joined PC Gamer's top team as senior hardware editor, where he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industry. He also enjoys making short videos for TikTok and believes everyone reading this should go follow our account immediately.