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Intel Alder Lake Already Looks Confusing: 12 Configurations Possible

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Alder Lake may be one of Intel's most confusing microarchitectures to date. That's if the latest coreboot patch (spotted via Twitter user La Frite David) is accurate. Apparently, there will be a plethora of core combinations for the chipmaker's upcoming Alder Lake-S and Alder Lake-P CPUs; however, we don't know yet if every configuration will actually make it to market. 

Alder Lake has been expected to leverage a hybrid architecture with large and small CPU cores, a setup that's similar to Arm's big.LITTLE technology. Intel first used this design on its 3D Lakefield chips for laptops and dubbed it "Big-Bigger." Alder Lake will bring the concept to desktop PCs. 

Logically, Alder Lake-S corresponds to the desktop chips. However, Alder Lake-P remains a mystery. There is some speculation going around that Alder Lake-P could be Intel's Atom P-series.

Alder Lake-S (Image credit: Gerrit Code Review)

This radical new design means that Alder Lake-S will command a CPU socket change. Alleged Intel documents suggest that the LGA1700 socket is the designated home for Alder Lake-S. As the name implies, the socket is comprised of 1,700 pins. That's 500 more pins that the existing LGA1200 socket that houses Comet Lake-S and looming Rocket Lake-S processors.

The coreboot patch also shows Platform Controller Hub (PCH) names for Alder Lake. It seems that Intel will use four PCHs with distinct features to cater to the different market segments. The various tiers appear to be Base, Mainstream, Premium and Super.

Intel Alder Lake-S Specifications

ProcessorBig CoresSmall CoresGPU Cores
Alder Lake-S881
Alder Lake-S861
Alder Lake-S841
Alder Lake-S821
Alder Lake-S801
Alder Lake-S681
Alder Lake-S661
Alder Lake-S641
Alder Lake-S621
Alder Lake-S601
Alder Lake-S401
Alder Lake-S201

Alder Lake-S could debut with 12 different combinations. The listings indicate that Intel might offer Alder Lake-S in two flavors: big and small cores or big cores only. 

The entry-level SKUs stick to a dual-core and quad-core design with no little cores. On the other hand, the chips with six and eight big cores can come with two, four, six or eight small cores. The flagship Alder Lake-S processor features eight big cores and eight small cores, according to the coreboot codes. 

Regardless of the core setup, Alder Lake-S will seemingly be equipped with a single GPU core. The coreboot code lists Alder Lake-S with a GT1 iGPU. It remains to be seen if Alder Lake will exploit Intel's Gen12 Xe graphics though.

Intel Alder Lake-P Specifications

ProcessorBig CoresSmall CoresGPU Cores
Alder Lake-P682
Alder Lake-P642
Alder Lake-P482
Alder Lake-P282
Alder Lake-P242
Alder Lake-P202

Differing from what we just saw with Alder Lake-S, Intel may keep it simple with Alder Lake-P and just deliver the processors in six unique forms. 

The entry-level Alder Lake-P chip will reportedly come with just two big cores, with the flagship maxing out at six big cores and eight small cores. What's interesting is that Alder Lake-P is listed with two GPU cores, adding the GT2 iGPU. This suggests that Alder Lake-P will carry more graphical firepower than the standard Alder Lake-S processors.

During Intel's Q2 2020 earnings call, the chipmaker confirmed that Alder Lake-S will arrive in the second half of 2021. Alder Lake, which will probably debut with the Intel 12th Generation moniker, has a heavy load on its shoulders since it'll be Intel's first 10nm desktop processor.

  • JayNor
    I'm more interested in Tiger Lake-H as a desktop chip at this point. Several leaks say it will be coming in 1H 2021, with 8 cores, avx512, dlboost.

    Seems to me Alder Lake is being positioned to compete with AMD cores ... smaller and lower power, but matching AMD's AVX2 limitation. I'll be surprised if Intel doesn't create a 3D version, as with Lakefield Foveros 3D stacking.
    Reply
  • Kamen Rider Blade
    This is going to confuse the eff out of Non-Techie folks.
    Reply
  • JamesSneed
    How many cores?
    Reply
  • hotaru251
    Kamen Rider Blade said:
    This is going to confuse the eff out of Non-Techie folks.
    itbh i'd just tell a non tech friend go amd and save urself the trouble.
    i mena if ur nto a tech person its easier that way.
    Reply
  • watzupken
    I feel Intel in their scramble to try and disrupt AMD's onslaught, is actually confusing their customers more and more. First they came out with X number of "Lake" models. Then they try to create something different, i.e. big/little config (Alder Lake), and yet within the Alder Lake series, there are some models with no small cores which is a perplexing decision.

    In any case, I am still unconvinced on the success of this big/little config on the desktop space. It will benefit the mobile space by delivering better battery life, but is a waste of die space on the desktop side of things. Not to mention that the switching between big and small cores mean another layer of software optimization, which is another point potential point of failure.
    Reply
  • Deicidium369
    JayNor said:
    I'm more interested in Tiger Lake-H as a desktop chip at this point. Several leaks say it will be coming in 1H 2021, with 8 cores, avx512, dlboost.

    Seems to me Alder Lake is being positioned to compete with AMD cores ... smaller and lower power, but matching AMD's AVX2 limitation. I'll be surprised if Intel doesn't create a 3D version, as with Lakefield Foveros 3D stacking.
    I have 66 previous generation (3 diff gens) deployed as desktop PCs - will replace them all with the high spec 4.5"x4.5" form factor NUC - even the oldest of our NUCs are more than adequate for processing power, it's the GPU that is becoming a limiting factor - alot of my employees are wanting dual displays - the oldest struggles with a single 2560x1440 while even the most recent are barely able to do dual 4K. So as far as being a desktop - even the 4C G7 variants would be quite usable - unless you intend to do alot of heavy lift - but for general office / daily use - hard to pass up - and the 8C G7 variant will be beast - will be interesting to compare to my i9900K systems.
    Reply
  • Conahl
    intels cpu line ups, have ALWAYS been confusing, come on, is it really needed to release cpu's that are so close to each other in price and specs ? when i upgraded from a core i7 930, i originally was going to get a 5830k on x99, then i thought about getting something on the other socket intel had at the time, socket 1156????? after i decided on a motherboard, i tried to decide on a cpu, after about 30 mins trying to decide which one to go with, and seeing that the price difference between each one was $50 or less, i just closed the browser windows, went to the local store, and grabbed an x99 board, 16 gigs of ram, and the 5830k, and was done with that headache. when AMD released ryzen, and then ryzen 3000, the choice was A LOT simpler, x570 board, 3900x, and 32 gigs of ram. didnt even bother looking at the mess that was intels lineup.
    Reply
  • Math Geek
    seems every week i hear about another "lake" cpu and it's multitude of variations. at this point i don't even bother trying to figure them out. i don't even know where they fall anymore with different generations, chip sets and numbered nomenclature. i looked up a chart once and it was as clear as the muddy mississippi river during a churning flood stage!!
    Reply