Intel has already released dozens of 12th Generation Core 'Alder Lake' processors for desktops, laptops, and ultra-thin laptops. But there are other categories of PCs that are yet to be addressed by the new family: ultra-low-power and ultra-low-cost computers. Intel is prepping its Alder-Lake N system-on-chips that only feature small energy-efficient Gracemont cores for these PCs, but these SoCs may actually be pretty serious performers.
Intel's Alder Lake-N processor apparently packs up to eight cores based on the energy-efficient Gracemont microarchitecture that come in two quad-core clusters with 2MB L2 cache per cluster and a shared L3 cache, according to a partial boot log of Alder Lake-N (ADL-N RVP) uploaded by Intel to the Linux repository in the Sound Open Firmware (SOF) Project (and discovered by Coelacanth's Dream).
Gracemont is a 5-wide out-of-order architecture with enhanced branch predictor with pattern recognition, new integer and floating point execution units, increased number of execution ports, and even L3 cache support. Eight Gracemont cores promise to offer quite formidable performance even when compared to previous generation 'big' cores like Skylake. That said, Intel's forthcoming low-power/low-cost PC platform (at least in its eight-core incarnation) may offer performance on par with premium PCs released some three or four years ago.
The SoC also has an integrated GPU with 32 execution units based on Intel's Xe-LP architecture, media, and display engines. Intel's Xe-LP has up-to-date media encode/decode capabilities (with AV1, H.264, H.265, Dolby Vision, and 8Kp60 support), so expect Alder Lake-N systems to offer premium multimedia playback features. Just what the doctor ordered for home theater PCs.
It remains to be seen how Intel plans to market its Alder Lake-N processors, but it is reasonable to expect this design to power next-generation Pentium Silver and Celeron CPUs for desktops, thin client, NAS, embedded systems, and low-cost notebooks. Eventually, Intel might offer some specialized Atom-branded processors based on Gracemont cores, though they will not necessarily be based on the Alder Lake-N design.
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Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.
I've been kicking around putting together a pfsense box with one of the lower power chips. These seem like they'll be perfect for that and potentially things that could require transcoding since they're using Xe graphics. Ought to be a massive improvement over the existing models across the board assuming Intel doesn't change the pricing structure.Reply