Even before Intel's latest generation Comet Lake-S desktop processors launched, there were already rumors going about surrounding the generation after it: Rocket Lake-S. Now, there's a new rumor stemming from VideoCardz.com stating that the Core i7 chip will feature 8 cores with 12 threads, this could be a typo, but if not it is odd to say the least.
The site doesn't name the source, but claims it is reliable. Three tiers of Rocket Lake-S chips can be spotted, ranging from the Core i5 up to the Core i9. The Core i5 chips are listed to feature 6 cores with 12 threads, and the i9 chips 8 cores with 16 threads.
You might wonder how come the i9 chip doesn't have 10 cores and 20 threads like the current-gen Comet Lake-S i9 parts do, but there's a simple explanation to that. Rocket Lake-S is expected to be the first new line of chips from Intel that comes with a new architecture, but remain on the 14-nanometer fabrication process. Given these changes, Intel would no longer be able to cram 10 cores onto the die as it would grow too big, as even the Core i9 10900K is already at the limits of what the 14nm silicon can do. This 8-core limit was already rumored back in 2019.
Of course, this limitation begs the question of how Intel would divide the product stack into Core i5, i7, and i9 for Rocket Lake-S, and it looks like limiting hyperthreading to half the cores on the i7 CPUs might do the trick.
However, we have to be careful here and pour quite some salt onto this rumor. This would be the first time that we're seeing a thread count that isn't identical to, or twice that of the physical core count, and we cannot know just how the 12 number came to be. For all we know, it's just a typo. Moreover, it wouldn't make sense from a performance standpoint: with the i7's featuring half-hyperthreading on the same core count as the i9's there would be a much smaller performance gap between the i7 and i9 chips as between the i5 and i7 chips.
Also note that this slide details the vPro chips, and not the consumer-oriented non-vPro parts.
Regardless, as things stand it does still look like Rocket Lake-S will run on the new Willow Cove architecture, which Intel originally engineered at 10 nm as seen in its mobile Tiger Lake chips. This architecture is expected to be backported to the 14nm process for the performance-oriented Rocket Lake-S SKUs.