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Report: Intel Pushing ATX12VO Power Connector for 12th Gen Alder Lake CPUs

Corsair ATX12VO Adapter Cable
Corsair ATX12VO Adapter Cable (Image credit: Corsair)

VideoCardz today shared a snippet of a document claiming to show Intel's strong desire for motherboard vendors to adopt the ATX12VO power connector on future Intel 12th Gen Alder Lake LGA1700 motherboards.

The ATX12VO is a 10-pin power connector that Intel has been pushing since a year ago to replace the conventional 24-pin power connector on modern motherboards. The connector ditches the 3.3V and 5V rails and only maintains the 12V rail. A more compact power connector minimizes power supply production costs, as well as cable clutter for the end user.

The flipside is that motherboard manufacturers would have to implement DC-to-DC converters on their motherboards to transform the 12V voltage down to usable 3.3V and 5V voltages, since there are still many components that use one of the latter.

Intel's own numbers show that ATX12VO specification is more power-efficient at idle or low power loads. With a 20W load, an ATX12VO 500W 80 PLUS Gold power supply offers a power efficiency of up to 83%, compared to an ATX 500W 80 PLUS Gold unit's 64%. Alder Lake features a hybrid combination of high-performance Golden Cove cores and low-power Gracemont cores so we can see the connection there. The chipmaker has gone as far as saying that Alder Lake offers the best performance per watt for a desktop processor.

According to VideoCardz's unnamed sources, Intel is very committed to the ATX12VO power connector. However, power supply and motherboard vendors aren't very fond of the idea. It's understandable since both parties will have to ultimately redesign their best power supplies and best motherboards to embrace the ATX12VO standard, which cost both money and time.

(Image credit: VideoCardz)

ATX12VO adoption so far has been fairly modest. With the previous generation, ASRock released its Z490 Phantom Gaming 4SR that uses the ATX12VO power connector. We've heard that MSI is preparing the Z590 Pro 12VO, but MSI hasn't made an official announcement. 

There's a very small window remaining to get ATX12VO-compatible power supplies and motherboards ready for the Alder Lake CPU launch, which is rumored to take place in late 2021 or early 2022. Power supply manufacturers need about four months to ready for mass production, and motherboard makers require anywhere up to four to five months to validate ATX12VO motherboards. 

What all this means is that OEM, ODM and LOEMs would need to be working hand-in-hand with both power supply and manufacturer vendors by the end of this month in order to have any chance of getting their products up in time for Alder Lake's debut.

However, VideoCardz's sources claimed that entry-level motherboards and pre-built systems are likely the only candidates to leverage the ATX12VO power connector. High-end and workstation-grade motherboards should continue to utilize the 24-pin power connector that we all know. You don't necessarily need an ATX12VO power supply anyway, since most power supply vendors offer a ATX12VO adapter cable to plug into a standard ATX unit. However, you'll be losing out on the power savings, which is the point of the ATX12VO specification.

Let's hope that Intel's ATX12VO power connector sees more success than Nvidia's 12-pin PCIe power connector. Only time will tell whether the ATX12VO will ever become a mainstream power connector, especially in the DIY market. For the meantime, it'll just have to co-exist with the 24-pin power connector.

  • setx
    I hope that this standard never takes off.
    They still require PSU to produce 5V for SATA power connectors, but motherboard now has to get that 5V by DC-DC converter. So very efficient...
    5V is main voltage of USB and that is not going to change, so motherboard will have those DC-DC active pretty much always, including "power off" state.
    Reply
  • jmcgaw
    Admin said:
    Intel document seemingly details the chipmaker's plans for the ATX12VO power connector on Alder Lake motherboards.

    Report: Intel Pushing ATX12VO Power Connector for 12th Gen Alder Lake CPUs : Read more
    At the cost of even more cable clutter couldn't somebody simply make and old-to-new adapter? Most of my builds are a shambles inside so one more bit of kit wouldn't make a difference unless it got caught in a fan.
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin
    That will end up fractionating the market and make things more expensive.
    Reply
  • BillyBuerger
    I'm all for this. The 24pin ATX connector is a huge mess of cables. The motherboard already has to convert the 12V power to usable voltages for things, makes sense for it to handle the 5V and 3.3V as well. If I'm not mistaken, Google did this in their data centers years ago for exactly the same reasons mentioned. It makes for a more simple efficient power supply. Sure, there will be growing pains as things have to change and adapters will be needed in the interim. But it will be worth it in the long run. As for SATA or other peripherals, I have very few of those left now with M.2 storage and very little need for optical media which I can do over USB.
    Reply
  • Flemkopf
    setx said:
    I hope that this standard never takes off.
    They still require PSU to produce 5V for SATA power connectors, but motherboard now has to get that 5V by DC-DC converter. So very efficient...
    5V is main voltage of USB and that is not going to change, so motherboard will have those DC-DC active pretty much always, including "power off" state.
    My understanding is that most power supplies already convert from AC to 12V DC, then from there to other rails so it's mainly just moving where conversions happen. SATA wouldn't be that much of an issue since PCIe is slowly taking over with SSDs and HDDs are going to be fed with a cable directly from the power supply anyways.

    USB is definitely going to be annoying, especially with standby voltages so your keyboard can still wake your PC, but I'm guessing it'll be a moot point with Point of Load converters such a big deal these days. I don't want to think about how much more complex the next USB protocol would be if they have to deal with anything other than 5V during the initial connection.
    Reply
  • purple_dragon
    It is the future with sata rapidly fading away due to m.2 storage, so adoption may as well start now. Frankly, I'm tired of cramming 24 pin cables in and prying them back out. Change is inevitable and hopefully for the better.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    Intel is going at this the wrong way IMO: if it really wanted to make 12VO the default option in the future, it should start with getting the PCI-SIG to make a new PCIe version based on 12VO, likewise for USB-IF and perhaps a 12VO SATA replacement too. Once everything is 12V by default, then 12VO would make sense. Otherwise, you are just moving the 5V and 3.3V regulators from the PSU which has a fair amount of space to spare to the motherboard which is already quite cramped.

    If you are going to screw around with long-standing power supply standards, may as well go all the way and convert everything to 20VO nominal for another 5% extra efficiency and be able to directly attach high-power external devices like monitors, eliminating the need to boost from 12V to 20V for devices that can use that. Make the spec tolerant to 18-25V, then you can eliminate intermediate DC-DC conversions in/out of the battery for another 5-10% higher efficiency in laptops using a 6S pack.

    Flemkopf said:
    I don't want to think about how much more complex the next USB protocol would be if they have to deal with anything other than 5V during the initial connection.
    There is a simple way of avoiding that: a new connector dedicated to 20VO high-speed devices. I'd propose PCIe Type-O using 20VO power and optical fiber for data speed starting at something like 32Gbps based on PCI hot-plug instead of USB.

    It won't replace 5V for things like mice and keyboards but it would clean up all of the high-speed high-power devices. Legacy TB3/4, USB2/3/4, DP alt-mode devices, etc. could be accommodated by bridge devices as-needed for a smooth transition.

    5V DC-DC converters for low-power (5W/1A or less) devices like 2.5" external HDDs, thumb-drives, mice, keyboards, etc. are cheap and don't take much space, I wouldn't be particularly worried about motherboard having to provide those until a 12/20VO USB successor comes along for those. Type-C was a missed opportunity to bump the baseline standard to something like 12V/500mA.
    Reply
  • Conahl
    purple_dragon said:
    It is the future with sata rapidly fading away due to m.2 storage
    untill there are at least 4 NVMe slots on a mainstream board, it will still be quite a while for that to happen
    Reply
  • zodiacfml
    Should be pushed harder. That mobo cable is just old and clunky, one of my pet peeves with PC building. I also realized that used server power supplies just trash any existing PC PSUs
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    Conahl said:
    untill there are at least 4 NVMe slots on a mainstream board, it will still be quite a while for that to happen
    With NVMe costing four PCIe lanes a pop, I don't foresee boards with heaps of M.2 slots becoming much of a thing outside the server space and maybe HEDT. M.2 slots also consume a ton of board space unless you shove them in a PCIe riser card.

    Yeah, I don't foresee SATA going away any time soon for people who want to have heaps of affordable and reliable storage. It would be nice if "SATA" got at least one last upgrade to 8Gbps NVMe 3.0x1 with SATA3 backward-compatibility. Most modern chipsets have SATA ports powered by HSIO lanes that support USB3/SATA3/PCIe3 and could probably already do this with little more than a BIOS update to attempt 3.0x1 before SATA3 fall-back and better/shorter cables.
    Reply