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Intel Teases Rocket Lake: Double-Digit IPC Gains, Cypress Cove Architecture

Intel Rocket Lake
(Image credit: Intel)

AMD has stolen the headlines with its Zen 3-powered Ryzen 5000 series processors that will come to market on November 5, but not to be left out of the hype, Intel is now sharing more details about its competing Rocket Lake processors that will arrive in the first quarter of 2021. 

Intel's Rocket Lake processors are among the industry's worst-kept secrets, with plenty of information already having come to the surface. Intel's new press release verifies much of what we already knew, such as Rocket Lake's planned double-digit increase in instruction per cycle (IPC) throughput. That's a much-needed advance in the face of AMD's Ryzen 5000 processors, which feature a 19% increase in IPC. The increased IPC benefits all aspects of performance and power consumption for both Intel and AMD, impacting everything from professional applications to gaming. 

Intel also bumped the memory clock speeds up to DDR4-3200, a nice increase over the current DDR4-2933 supported with Comet Lake processors. That increased data transfer rate may play a role in the higher IPC, too. 

Intel also confirmed that Rocket Lake tops out at eight cores and 16 threads, which is a step back in core counts from Intel's current Comet Lake processors that top out at ten cores. That means the company will lean on the improved IPC and possibly clock speed enhancements to take on AMD's core-heavy Ryzen processors that top out at 16 cores for the mainstream desktop. Intel also lists a 125W TDP and (250W under boost) for the chip it used to provide its vague performance predictions. 

Intel finally confirmed one tidbit that wasn't entirely clear: The new chips feature the Cypress Cove architecture, Intel's first new microarchitecture for the desktop PC since Skylake arrived back in 2015. Intel says this new architecture is based on Ice Lake's 'Sunny Cove' architecture and also comes with the same performant 12th-gen Intel Xe LP graphics engine found in the Tiger Lake processors. 

It's notable that while the chips come with a new microarchitecture, they still purportedly leverage Intel's 14nm process (Intel didn't clarify in the materials). We know that the Cypress Cove microarchitecture hasn't made an appearance in Intel's roadmaps, so the branding is likely meant to indicate that the design is a back-ported version of the Sunny Cove cores found in Ice Lake processors. "Back-porting" is a method that allows Intel to take a new design built on a smaller process node, in this case 10nm, and etch it on an older, larger node (in this case 14nm).

Rocket Lake also marks Intel's first desktop PC chips that support the PCIe 4.0 interface, a needed addition that comes two long years after AMD led the industry with the first PC chips to support the interface. Intel also reworked the internal PCIe subsystem to accommodate a x4 direct connection (the chips now support 20 lanes), with the 'extra' four lanes being rumored to be a direct connection from the CPU to NVMe storage.

Intel Rocket Lake

(Image credit: Intel)
  • New Cypress Cove architecture featuring Ice Lake Core architecture and Tiger Lake Graphics architecture.
  • Double-digit percentage IPC performance improvement
  • Better gen-on-gen performance
  • Up to 20 CPU Pcie 4.0 lanes 
  • Intel UHD graphics featuring Intel Xe Graphics architecture
  • Intel Quick Sync video, offering better video transcoding and hardware acceleration for the latest codecs
  • New overclocking features for more flexible tuning performance
  • Intel Deep Learning Boost and VNNI support

The chips drop into 500-series motherboards, and we expect them to work with existing 400-series motherboards as well. However, we can expect a new wave of 500-series motherboards to arrive at the launch. 

Intel also touted support for its Deep Learning Boost (DLBoost) and VNNI features, which require support for AVX-512 instructions. Thus, Intel has confirmed support for AVX-512 with Rocket Lake, and both DLBoost and VNNI will enhance performance in workloads that leverage AI algorithms. Intel has been fostering the software ecosystem to better take advantage of the explosive performance benefits. Adobe's recent suite of updates is a prime example of the improvements we can expect as AI becomes more broadly adopted for PC  workloads. 

Enthusiasts can also look forward to new undefined overclocking features, which would be helpful as Intel's overclocking headroom, while shrinking, still tends to be a big advantage over AMD's chips. 

Intel also added new features to the graphics engine, with new HEVC, VP9, and SCC encoders that support up to 4K60 12b and hardware-accelerated AV1 support for 4K60 10b. Keep your eye on AV1; this seems to be the looming industry standard. Intel also touts the increased display resolution, with now stretches up to three screens at 4K60 or two screens at 5K60. 

Intel says the chips will come to market in the first quarter of 2021, which means we'll likely see them sometime in April of next year, ceding the lucrative holiday shopping season to AMD's Ryzen 5000 processors.  

  • JfromNucleon
    Interesting
    Reply
  • JayNor
    I believe all 20 of the pcie4 lanes are direct connect to the CPU. This has been shown in previously leaked diagrams.

    https://videocardz.com/newz/intel-rocket-lake-s-pcie-4-0-performance-allegedly-tested-on-z490-motherboard
    Reply
  • Shadowclash10
    You know, I just don't feel super excited for Rocket Lake. Intel has lately just not done anything great. I was excited for Ampere because new GPU generation. I was excited for Big Navi because of something that lot's of people overlook - the RX 5700 XT was even better than the 2060 Super - 2070 Super based on bang-for-the-buck. I'm excited for Ryzen 5000 because Ryzen 3000 desktop was pretty good, and Ryzen 4000 in mobile was great, and Big Navi looks to be very good. What has Intel done lately that would make me believe that Rocket Lake is gonna be real good?
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    Shadowclash10 said:
    You know, I just don't feel super excited for Rocket Lake. Intel has lately just not done anything great. I was excited for Ampere because new GPU generation. I was excited for Big Navi because of something that lot's of people overlook - the RX 5700 XT was even better than the 2060 Super - 2070 Super based on bang-for-the-buck. I'm excited for Ryzen 5000 because Ryzen 3000 desktop was pretty good, and Ryzen 4000 in mobile was great, and Big Navi looks to be very good. What has Intel done lately that would make me believe that Rocket Lake is gonna be real good?
    You're right, there have been so many delays and it's been so long since Intel has had anything really new on the desktop that we're to point of I'll care when I can actually buy it and not before. The other issue is that Rocket Lake definitely feels like a compromise/stop gap and not a best foot forward polished product. Alder Lake looks like a true next generation platform with a new Jim Keller architecture, but that's at least a year off if it isn't delayed. So again, wake me up when it gets here.
    Reply
  • shady28
    I don't know, I am pretty excited about Rocket Lake. Look at Tiger Lake, it got really good reviews but they were almost grudgingly given. And the comparisons, almost universally pitting the 4C/8T Tiger against 8C/8T and 8C/16T AMD mobile systems - nevertheless Tiger came out on top in anything not able to use all 8 cores (which is, 90% of real use cases). I'm not even talking about the excellent Xe iGPU here, I'm just talking the CPU benchmarks.

    If you translate those benchmarks and reviews of Tiger Lake into an 8C/16T desktop part running at 5Ghz, it could be quite amazing.
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    shady28 said:
    I don't know, I am pretty excited about Rocket Lake. Look at Tiger Lake, it got really good reviews but they were almost grudgingly given. And the comparisons, almost universally pitting the 4C/8T Tiger against 8C/8T and 8C/16T AMD mobile systems - nevertheless Tiger came out on top in anything not able to use all 8 cores (which is, 90% of real use cases). I'm not even talking about the excellent Xe iGPU here, I'm just talking the CPU benchmarks.

    If you translate those benchmarks and reviews of Tiger Lake into an 8C/16T desktop part running at 5Ghz, it could be quite amazing.
    Intel just confirmed that Cypress Cove is based on Sunny Cove which Ice Lake uses, not Willow Cove that Tiger Lake uses.
    Reply
  • jeremyj_83
    shady28 said:
    I don't know, I am pretty excited about Rocket Lake. Look at Tiger Lake, it got really good reviews but they were almost grudgingly given. And the comparisons, almost universally pitting the 4C/8T Tiger against 8C/8T and 8C/16T AMD mobile systems - nevertheless Tiger came out on top in anything not able to use all 8 cores (which is, 90% of real use cases). I'm not even talking about the excellent Xe iGPU here, I'm just talking the CPU benchmarks.

    If you translate those benchmarks and reviews of Tiger Lake into an 8C/16T desktop part running at 5Ghz, it could be quite amazing.
    While Tiger Lake is very good, almost all of the performance gains it had over Ice Lake are all clock speed related. Also Tiger Lake only really looked very good when it was in the 28W configuration. At 15W it did provide a nice boost in performance, but it wasn't sustainable. Compared to Zen 2, both architectures have similar IPC. Therefore when the Intel can boot 20% higher I would expect the performance to be a lot higher in lightly threaded applications.
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin
    Now we'll see how high it can clock.

    Bring on competition and lower prices!
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    jeremyj_83 said:
    While Tiger Lake is very good, almost all of the performance gains it had over Ice Lake are all clock speed related. Also Tiger Lake only really looked very good when it was in the 28W configuration. At 15W it did provide a nice boost in performance, but it wasn't sustainable. Compared to Zen 2, both architectures have similar IPC. Therefore when the Intel can boot 20% higher I would expect the performance to be a lot higher in lightly threaded applications.
    Tiger Lake also gets a boost from 2.5x more L2 cache as well as additional last level cache, but as I said above, Rocket Lake isn't using the same architecture as Tiger Lake that we thought, it's using the previous architecture, Sunny Cove.
    Reply
  • shady28
    I'll just throw this out there. This is spec2006 integer and floating point ops - single thread.

    The 1185G7 is a max 4.7Ghz part, tested here at both 15W and 28W.
    The 4800U is a max 4.2Ghz part, rated at 25W.
    That is an 11.9% difference in clock speed.

    In integer operations, 15W tiger is 49% faster than than the 25W 4800U.

    In Float operations, 15W tiger is 48.6% faster than the 25W 4800U.

    An 11.9% higher clock speed resulting in 49% and 48.6% higher performance here would imply one heck of a lot more IPC than the chip is being given credit for. This is assuming they are both hitting that max clock - and at this wattage rating I bet neither Renoir nor Tiger are sustaining those clocks.

    And yes, the big difference Tiger Lake brought was a combination of higher frequency and at the same time lower power consumption vs Ice Lake. Think about that statement for a moment.

    High clocks in this case came with lower power consumption. That is a total win win.

    I am really interested to see what this arch can do with 95W or 125W even. Will Rocket lake come out as a 5.5Ghz 125W part? It might just do that, given what Tiger did. Even if it doesn't what will an all core 5Ghz turbo look like on this thing? Look at how close to the single thread performance of a 5.3Ghz 10900K that 28W part is.

    Reply