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Intel Alder Lake-S 16-Core CPU Shows Similar Multi-Core Performance as Ryzen 5 3600X

Alder Lake, WA
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Intel's 12th Generation Alder Lake-S processors may be still be a far way off. But the chipmaker has already started sampling the chips to PC partners, and other engineering samples are already running in the hardware world, too. A high-end SKU (via Leakbench) with 16 cores has seemingly broken its cover in Geekbench 5.

Alder Lake-S is a hybrid desktop processor, meaning not all cores inside the chip are made equal. The sample that appeared on Geekbench 5 reportedly comes equipped with 16 cores and 24 threads and matches one of the potential configurations that we've seen. There's also a logical explanation behind the odd thread count.

To understand Alder Lake-S, you first need to know the exact recipe that Intel is employing for its hybrid parts. There are two distinct core types on Alder Lake-S that have specific responsibilities. The Golden Cove cores are the high-performance cores that cater to heavy workloads, while the Gracemont (Atom) cores are designed for lesser workloads.

Coming back to the Alder Lake-S sample, there should be eight Golden Cove cores and eight Gracemont cores present. We suspect that only the Golden Cove cores leverage Intel's Hyper-Threading technology. Therefore, we have 16 threads from the Golden Cove cores and eight threads from the Gracemont cores, which adds up to the reported total of 24 threads.

Intel Alder Lake-S (Image credit: Primate Labs Inc.)

Geekbench 5 reported a 1.38 GHz base clock speed that's probably for the Gracemont cores. The reported boost clock, on the other hand, is clearly a mistake, which is common among unreleased hardware that goes through benchmarking software.

The cache configuration for the 16-core Alder Lake-S is also quite interesting. There are eight L2 slices of 1.25MB and 320KB, amounting to a total of 12.5MB of total L2 cache. For the L3 cache, we're also looking at eight slices of 3MB and 768KB that total to 30MB.

The preliminary performance from the 16-core Alder Lake-S part is far from impressive though. As with any unreleased hardware, we recommend taking the benchmark numbers with some skeptical salt. As far as today's sample goes, the Alder Lake-S processor scored 996 points in the single-core test and 6,931 points in the multi-core test. For comparison, the single-core performance is right in the same alley as the AMD's mobile Ryzen 5 4600H (994 average points), while its multi-core performance on par with the Ryzen 5 3600X (6,906 average points).

Alder Lake-S, which commands the new LGA1700 socket, will come out of Intel's 10nm Enhanced SuperFin silicon oven. The chipmaker has previously affirmed that Alder Lake-S competes in the performance segment. Today's outing doesn't look very imposing, although Intel won't likely release Alder Lake until the second half of 2021, so this may just be a teaser of what Alder Lake could offer.

  • tlmiller76
    I can't imagine Intel would WANT to release a teaser of the CPU's if this is ANYTHING like what they're expecting they'd actually be capable of. 24 threads that perform on par with last generation 12 threaded AMD CPU? Not exactly going to give anyone massive anticipations for the release. Usually you want your teaser to make it look amazing, this makes it look...pathetic.
    Reply
  • jpe1701
    tlmiller76 said:
    I can't imagine Intel would WANT to release a teaser of the CPU's if this is ANYTHING like what they're expecting they'd actually be capable of. 24 threads that perform on par with last generation 12 threaded AMD CPU? Not exactly going to give anyone massive anticipations for the release. Usually you want your teaser to make it look amazing, this makes it look...pathetic.
    I would assume that they are more concerned with getting it to work right with windows and such for now. I would expect though, if I grasp the concept, that in a game or something requiring high performance it would act like an 8 core 16 thread, while using the atom cores to run the background stuff. Should be really interesting.
    Reply
  • JfromNucleon
    tlmiller76 said:
    I can't imagine Intel would WANT to release a teaser of the CPU's if this is ANYTHING like what they're expecting they'd actually be capable of. 24 threads that perform on par with last generation 12 threaded AMD CPU? Not exactly going to give anyone massive anticipations for the release. Usually you want your teaser to make it look amazing, this makes it look...pathetic.
    Maybe they might be trying to set the bar of expectation really low but at this point anything could happen in a year.
    Reply
  • waltc3
    If this is factual, it puts a decisive end to the notion that "Intel's 10nm = AMD's 7nm"...;) It doesn't appear to even be close, if this is the case.
    Reply
  • mrv_co
    jpe1701 said:
    I would assume that they are more concerned with getting it to work right with windows and such for now. I would expect though, if I grasp the concept, that in a game or something requiring high performance it would act like an 8 core 16 thread, while using the atom cores to run the background stuff. Should be really interesting.

    This is an interesting concept and I'll be interested to see how Intel markets it, but this approach seems like it would be more applicable to mobile than desktop.
    Reply
  • everettfsargent
    "Today's outing doesn't look very imposing, although Intel won't likely release Alder Lake until the second half of 2021, so this may just be a teaser of what Alder Lake could offer. "

    Replace 'a teaser' with 'lowering expectations' as that is much closer to the current truth of the matter.

    Oh and can we continue to expect further rumors of future CPU/GPU benchmarks at the current, greater then one, ratio?
    Reply
  • FakeMike
    These results cannot be indicative of real performance because Alder Lake being the first hybrid CPU will require full support for Windows and apps, of which there is none right now. I might be wrong but I doubt little cores will run at the same time as big cores (either through a power constraint limit or to prioritize efficiency) so 24 threads could only be a paper spec and benchmarking software will need to be updated to accurately measure its performance.
    Reply
  • watzupken
    FakeMike said:
    These results cannot be indicative of real performance because Alder Lake being the first hybrid CPU will require full support for Windows and apps, of which there is none right now. I might be wrong but I doubt little cores will run at the same time as big cores (either through a power constraint limit or to prioritize efficiency) so 24 threads could only be a paper spec and benchmarking software will need to be updated to accurately measure its performance.
    I agree with what you mentioned. However, this also raises the issue that the app/game will require some changes (not sure big /small changes) in order for the processor to work at its full potential.

    The big/little config in my opinion is a double edged sword because while it helps keep power consumption lower when using less taxing applications, it also wastes die space when you just want as much performance as possible. If most gamers are so concerned about power consumption of their PC, they would not have purchase a high end Comet Lake CPU or any of the top end GPUs now that is sucking in north of 300W of power. On mobile devices, it makes sense because there needs a good balance between longer battery life without compromising on performance too much.
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    watzupken said:
    I agree with what you mentioned. However, this also raises the issue that the app/game will require some changes (not sure big /small changes) in order for the processor to work at its full potential.

    The big/little config in my opinion is a double edged sword because while it helps keep power consumption lower when using less taxing applications, it also wastes die space when you just want as much performance as possible. If most gamers are so concerned about power consumption of their PC, they would not have purchase a high end Comet Lake CPU or any of the top end GPUs now that is sucking in north of 300W of power. On mobile devices, it makes sense because there needs a good balance between longer battery life without compromising on performance too much.
    I think people are looking at this the wrong way. Hybrid CPU's in a desktop system the way Intel is implementing this isn't really about saving power in the same way it's done in mobile products. It's getting much more difficult to improve per core performance now without making massive cores. The overwhelming majority of workloads for desktops now aren't going to benefit from more than 8 cores, so by going hybrid, Intel can make 8 massive cores to maximize performance for the workloads users are most likely to be encountering. What's the point of hurting yields and wasting die space and power with 4 or more massive cores above 8 sitting idle 99% of time? The smaller cores offer a more space/power efficient way to increase highly multithreaded performance during the rare occasions they occur. This design would allow for larger cores for the lower threaded workloads than would be possible if Intel wanted all the cores to be the same. So, yes, this is about saving power, but not in the absolute sense. The saved power is shifted to help improve lower threaded workloads.

    Jim Keller said that Sunny Cove dies were about 40% larger than Coffee Lake dies, and that Golden Cove dies (Alder Lake) will be "significantly bigger" than Sunny Cove, and that the roadmap was trying to achieve 50x more transistors within a few years. Node shrinks aren't likely to keep up with that, so that's where the hybrid design comes in.
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    spongiemaster said:
    The overwhelming majority of workloads for desktops now aren't going to benefit from more than 8 cores, so by going hybrid, Intel can make 8 massive cores to maximize performance for the workloads users are most likely to be encountering. What's the point of hurting yields and wasting die space and power with 4 or more massive cores above 8 sitting idle 99% of time? The smaller cores offer a more space/power efficient way to increase highly multithreaded performance during the rare occasions they occur.
    Very doubtful, if that was the problem they would have invented/bought a three way hyperthreading to increase multithreading in tight spots which would be much more efficient since the threads would still be running on the full clock speed of the big cores, on the wider cores smaller threads would not even run at a IPC deficit because the core would have enough instructions available and it would take up much less space.
    Reply