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Leaker Allegedly Exposes Alder Lake's Inner Workings

Intel Core i9-12900K
Intel Core i9-12900K (Image credit: YuuKi_AnS/Bilibili)

As we approach the rumored November 4 announcement for Alder Lake, more information about the hybrid chips has come to light. On this occasion, a Chinese netizen (via momomo_us) has shared some insights on Intel's next-generation platform. As with any leak, it’s prudent to exercise caution when approaching the information. 

If the rumors are accurate, the Core i5, Core i7 and Core i9 K/KF-series will lead the charge for the Alder Lake army. Since these are unlocked SKUs, motherboard vendors will launch their Z690 products first. According to a BiliBili user, we can expect the non-K models and the more accessible B660 and H610 motherboards to arrive in January 2021.

Alder Lake purportedly has good headroom for overclocking. The leaker mentioned that a 5.2 GHz to 5.3 GHz all-core boost clock is available if you turn off the Gracemont cores. Heat dissipation may be decent as well thanks to the large integrated heat spreader (IHS). Outside of improving overclocking margins, disabling the Gracemont cores doesn't help lower power consumption, though.

FIVR's Return (Kinda)

As per the tipster's information, Alder Lake's V-Core and Core GT (iGPU) voltages stick to the normal scheme and only the Uncore conforms to Intel's FIVR (Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator) design. Intel seemingly combined the VCCSA and VCCIO voltages, and processors may need around 1.8V to post before FIVR kicks in to step it down.

In terms of best bang for your buck, the user thinks that the Core i5-12400 is the chip to pick up. The Alder Lake processor wields six Golden Cove cores with Hyper-Threading and doesn't have any Gracemont cores. Even though it only has a 4 GHz all-core boost clock speed, it should be a substantial upgrade over the Core i5-11400 or the older Core i5-10400.

As we already know, Alder Lake will only shine on Windows 11 with the new hardware scheduler. In Windows 10, programs and games will only work the Gracemont cores. Games that have been optimized for Windows 11 will put the Gracemont cores to sleep so the Golden Cove cores will have exclusive access to the large L3 cache.

A few months ago, a mysterious document showed that Intel was reportedly pushing the ATX12VO power connector with Alder Lake. However, there's nothing to worry about. The tipster estimated that over 90% of the 600-series motherboards will arrive with the conventional ATX 24-pin 12V power connector.

Take Your Pick: DDR4 or DDR5

Alder Lake natively supports DDR5-4800 or DDR4-3200 memory modules. When it comes to LGA1700 motherboards, we'll either get one or the other. For DDR5, we probably won't see those rare motherboards that support two different memory slots. Remember that DDR5 has its own 12V power management IC (PMIC) for voltage regulation. As a result, LGA1700 motherboards will not longer carry buck converters, but DDR4 still needs those. Therefore, the possibility of both DDR4 and DDR5 coexisting on a LGA1700 motherboard is less than 1%.

Memory will function differently with Alder Lake, depending if it's DDR4 or DDR5. DDR4 can run on Gear 1, but the ceiling is at DDR4-3600. Increasing the uncore voltage could bump it up to DDR4-3866, though. By default, DDR5 will only run on Gear 2, due to the high data rate. In order to see any improvement over DDR4, DDR5 needs to be clocked over DDR5-8000. Gear 4 is present for future DDR5 memory modules that exceed DDR5-10000.

In addition to DDR5 support, Alder Lake will leverage PCIe 5.0, but in a limited way. The processor reportedly offers a PCIe 5.0 x16 connection to the primary PCIe expansion slot whereas the connection to the M.2 slots, for example, is still confined to PCIe 4.0 speeds. AMD has shown us that PCIe 4.0 functionality takes a heavy toll on the chipset to a point where active cooling is required. The Chinese leaker claimed that Intel's 600-series chipsets don't run hot, or at least not enough to warrant a cooling fan.

Lastly, the Bilibili user believes that Alder Lake will be a lot more expensive than Rocket Lake. Early U.S. retailer listings lend credence to his notion. He went on to mention that the supply for the fourth quarter of this year is around 300,000 units, although he didn't specify if that number corresponds to the Chinese or Asian market.