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.
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.