Intel’s 12th Gen Alder Lake ‘hybrid’ chips are here to take on AMD—and Apple

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October 28, 2021 11:08 AM

Alder Lake marks the beginning of an all-new era for Intel.

Intel Alder Lake, Alder Lake, IntelThey’ll be more broadly available from November 4.

Intel’s 12th Gen Alder Lake chips have officially arrived. The Santa Clara, California-based chipmaker is kicking things off with six unlocked desktop processors. At the helm will be the Core i9-12900K model which is being billed as the ‘world’s best gaming processor.’ They’ll be more broadly available from November 4. Price starts at $264 (roughly Rs 19,800) going all the way to $589 (roughly Rs 44,000).

Alder Lake marks the beginning of an all-new era for Intel. No wonder, it has been hyping these chips for a while now, particularly their performance hybrid architecture.

Also Read | Alder Lake is the high-performance hybrid Formula 1 racing car we have built for computing: Intel

Instead of just chasing raw power, Alder Lake will offer a mix of performance—codenamed Golden Cove) and efficiency (Gracemont) x86 cores, a concept similar to Arm’s big.LITTLE and DynamicIQ technologies which are employed by Qualcomm in its Snapdragon and Apple in it’s A-series SoCs. Perhaps an even better comparison—in this context—would be Apple’s new M1 chips for Mac.

Going into a little more detail, Intel has basically combined its Core and Atom architectures, bringing them together on a single die to help achieve a balance of power and efficiency, at least in theory.

“A good analogy is to think of conventional hybrid cars that focused on getting the most miles out of a tank of gas versus Formula 1 racing cars that use hybrid technology to achieve maximum performance—they have engines to give them top speed and then electric power to blast them out of the corners with acceleration,” Intel’s Prakash Mallya had told Financial Express Online recently, adding “Alder Lake is the high-performance hybrid that we built for computing.”

To be clear, Alder Lake isn’t Intel’s first ‘hybrid’ chip. It had dabbled with the idea last year with its Lakefield chips although they were designed specifically for ultra-portable laptops, foldables and dual screen devices. Alder Lake on the other hand, will take on a much bigger role as Intel’s flagship processor powering full-scale desktops, followed by laptops and ultra-portable devices. The 12th Gen Intel Core family will spawn 60 processors, Intel has announced.

At its heart lies the Intel 7 manufacturing process—previously known as Intel’s third-gen 10nm process, or Enhanced Superfin—which marks a big transition from the ageing 14nm process that it has been using since 2015.

The top-of-the-line Core i9-12900K will offer a total of 16 cores (eight P-cores and eight E-cores) and 24 threads. It can top 5.2GHz using Intel’s Turbo Boost Max 3.0 technology. Tagging along—for now—are the Core i7-12700K (12 cores and 20 threads, with eight P-cores and four E-cores) and the Core i5-12700K (10 cores and 16 threads, with six P-cores and four E-cores) models. Each of these chips will be also available in a ‘KF’ avatar which is to say they’ll come without any integrated graphics—which also means that they’ll be cheaper.

Also Read | ‘One size can’t fit all’: Intel’s Prakash Mallya on why the chipmaker is making discrete GPUs now

Alder Lake—expectedly—will bring a lot of future-proofing and support for more advanced standards. To that effect, we’re looking at support for PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 memory at up to 4800MT/s. They’ll also need a new motherboard based on Intel’s freshly minted Z690 chipset which comes with Wi-Fi 6E, USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 and an updated LGA 1700 socket.

Driving the whole hybrid approach will be Intel’s Thread Director software that’s said to be fully dynamic, adaptive, autonomous, and not to mention, intelligent. Using real-world hardware telemetry, it will help guide operating systems to the right workload, which subsequently can be guided to the right cores for a more streamlined—and efficient—performance. A thing to note about Thread Director is that it’s designed specifically to work best with Windows 11 and Intel is putting this out front and centre.

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