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Intel Shares Alder Lake Pricing, Specs and Gaming Performance: $589 for 16 Cores

Windows 10 Performance Variability and Intel Thread Director

However, Intel pointed out that you'll get the best performance with Windows 11 and that you can expect some performance variability if you use Windows 10. That means performance can be inconsistent, with programs running faster sometimes and slower at other times. 

With a mix of both performance and efficiency cores, Intel's biggest challenge lies in assuring that the correct type of workloads land on the correct cores. It's easy to see that having a core that excels at high-performance workloads isn't much help if the high-performance workloads consistently land in the slower cores. Unfortunately, thread scheduling systems based entirely on static rules (priority, foreground, background) tend to be inefficient and create software programming overhead.

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Intel Alder Lake

(Image credit: Intel)
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Intel Alder Lake

(Image credit: Intel)
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Intel Alder Lake

(Image credit: Intel)
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Intel Alder Lake

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel's Thread Director technology is the key here. This hardware-based technology uses a trained AI model to identify different types of workloads at the chip level. It then provides that enhanced telemetry data to Windows 11 via a Performance Monitoring Unit (PMU) built into the chip. The operating system then uses that data to help assure that threads are scheduled to either the P- or E-cores in an optimized and intelligent manner.

However, while Windows 11 exploits Thread Director's full feature set, Windows 10 does not. Due to optimizations for Intel's Lakefield chips, Windows 10 is aware of hybrid topologies, meaning it knows the difference between the performance and efficiency of the different core types. Still, it doesn't have access to the thread-specific telemetry provided by Intel's hardware-based solution.

As a result, threads can and will land on the incorrect cores under some circumstances, which Intel says will result in run-to-run variability in benchmarks. It will also impact the chips during normal use, too. Intel says the difference amounts to a few percentage points of performance and that the chips still provide an "awesome" user experience. We'll have to see how that works in the real world to assess the impact.

Intel also says that users can assign the priority of background tasks through the standard Windows settings, but these global settings apply to all programs. So it remains to be seen if that will have a meaningful impact on performance variability in Windows 10.  

Alder Lake Performance

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Intel Alder Lake

(Image credit: Intel )
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Intel Alder Lake

(Image credit: Intel )

According to Intel's claims, the hybrid architecture pays big dividends when it functions to its fullest. We already covered many of the performance and efficiency highlights in our Alder Lake deep dive, but Intel also shared a few important new nuggets.

Intel says that the E-Cores provide the same level of single-threaded performance as Intel's Skylake architecture used in the Comet Lake chips, which is phenomenal even though Intel conducted this test at a fixed frequency (you might not get that level of single-threaded performance in normal use). Remember, four of these small cores fit into the same space as one Skylake core.

Intel also claims an impressive generational leap in power efficiency, with the Alder Lake-S chip running at 241W being 50% faster than the Core i9-11900K at 250W. More impressive, Intel claims that the 12900K can deliver the same level of threaded horsepower at a mere 65W as the 11900K gives at 250W, representing a massive performance-per-watt advantage.

Intel also shared a few other new details about how its Thread Director assists Windows 11, but we'll save most of that deep-dive info for the review.

Paul Alcorn

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.

  • wifiburger
    589$ is awesome, very interesting
    If I do upgrade I'll go with DDR4 since I already have a good 4400 bdie kit
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    wifiburger said:
    589$ is awesome, very interesting
    If I do upgrade I'll go with DDR4 since I already have a good 4400 bdie kit
    That's the 1K tray pricing, not "plebian" MSRP.

    At retail it'll definitely be more than that. Still, finding it under $700 may be totally possible, so good news there for sure. I'd say it's like at least 20% increase over the prices mentioned.

    Seems like Intel is not going ballistic with pricing, so that also hints at them being cautious. Not a bad thing, TBH.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • VforV
    As an AMD user all I care about Alder Lake is the price and I do hope these are the real prices on launch, even if these are only the mythical MSRPs, they should make AMD drop their Zen3 prices too.

    So that's good news if true, for me.

    Also I like how in their own gaming benchmarks intel has a average of about +15% lead over Zen3, like the same gap Zen3 V-Cache will add. Not the +50% all the synthetic benchmarks and click-bait titles were shouting from the rooftops up until now...
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    Yuka said:
    That's the 1K tray pricing, not "plebian" MSRP.
    Yes and all the big chains that will buy way more than just 1k will get them for cheaper than that.

    First couple of weeks are going to be higher prices because that always happens, the big question is what will happen after that, if scalpers will be a big issue or if they are going to be sold for more by retailers.
    Reply
  • keith12
    'The Alder Lake chips are available for preorder today, but they won't ship until October 4, 2021' - Am I stuck in a time warp! :tearsofjoy: So I could have ordered this 3 weeks ago!?
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    TerryLaze said:
    Yes and all the big chains that will buy way more than just 1k will get them for cheaper than that.

    First couple of weeks are going to be higher prices because that always happens, the big question is what will happen after that, if scalpers will be a big issue or if they are going to be sold for more by retailers.
    I was told Microcenter already has it listed for $650.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    Yuka said:
    I was told Microcenter already has it listed for $650.

    Regards.
    Looking at price history the 11900k was available at exactly the MSRP from day one, not everywhere but still, there is no reason to believe that the 12900k will be different, except for retailers that might take advantage of the situation.

    https://pcpartpicker.com/product/mDcG3C/intel-core-i9-11900k-35-ghz-8-core-processor-bx8070811900k?history_days=365
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    TerryLaze said:
    Looking at price history the 11900k was available at exactly the MSRP from day one, not everywhere but still, there is no reason to believe that the 12900k will be different, except for retailers that might take advantage of the situation.

    https://pcpartpicker.com/product/mDcG3C/intel-core-i9-11900k-35-ghz-8-core-processor-bx8070811900k?history_days=365
    Not disagreeing. I mentioned Microcenter as they're usually your "best case scenario" for retail pricing.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • hotaru251
    kind of weird they knowingly posted benchmarks vs a nerfed ryzen os.

    should of just omitted it and posted fair ones later.

    but props to em for mentioning it.
    Reply
  • nervousstate
    Yuka said:
    That's the 1K tray pricing, not "plebian" MSRP.

    At retail it'll definitely be more than that. Still, finding it under $700 may be totally possible, so good news there for sure. I'd say it's like at least 20% increase over the prices mentioned.

    Seems like Intel is not going ballistic with pricing, so that also hints at them being cautious. Not a bad thing, TBH.

    Regards.
    Not to mention everything else will be a premium at launch. PCIe5 and DDR5 are not going to make motherboards more affordable and DDR5 is at least 2X the price of DDR4 and overclocking the memory to actually achieve a benefit is still very much unknown and different than DDR3/4 due to the change to the power delivery as well as everything else that is new. We are also going to see the extended L3 Cache launched very soon from amd which they suggested is going to have a 20% improvement along with 16 REAL cores for about the same price as the 5950X - It does look like they have improved Single threaded performance over AMD but youll never get the same performance with 8 Atom Cores. The i5 looks like a compelling offer though. 6C/12T + 4 Low-Power Cores is going to compete well against the 5600X and LP cores will be nice for running docker containers or network services without effecting gaming performance. Unless of course AMD drops the price a little...
    Reply