For now, Intel offers only the highest-end Alder Lake processors for desktops with up to 16 Golden Cove and Goldmont cores. However, come 2022, the company will roll out its mainstream and entry-level parts with up to six cores. As it turns out, those CPUs will use entirely different silicon die that will physically lack energy-efficient Goldmont cores.
Smaller Dies for Cheaper CPUs
Intel's 12th Generation Core i9/i7/i5 'Alder Lake-S' processors that are shipped today contain up to eight (P)erformance Golden Cove cores, eight (E)fficiency cores, and an integrated Xe-LP GPU with up to 32 EUs. The highest-end Core i9-12900K has all of its 16 cores activated, whereas the midrange Core i5-12600K comes with six P cores and four E cores activated. Apparently, for lower-end SKUs, Intel is prepping a die with six P cores that will not have any E cores inside, MSI Insider revealed (via VideoCardz).
Developing a six-core Alder Lake version without E-cores makes a lot of sense. Intel plans to have a top-to-bottom Alder Lake family and address mid-range and entry-level market segments with its latest microarchitecture, which entails offering CPUs with different core configurations.
Even the Core i5-12600K has six performance and four efficiency cores, so cheaper parts might reduce the number of both P cores and E cores, though far not all technically savvy customers would like to buy a desktop CPU with only four high-performance cores. So instead, Intel just got rid of E-cores and will offer all the benefits of six Golden Cove cores with CPUs that will cost around $200. In the end, few people care about the power consumption of a desktop CPU.
The Alder Lake 6P is reportedly considerably smaller than the full-blown 8P+8E die (162.75 mm2 vs 215.25 mm2). That six-core die can be used for six-core processors, quad-core and maybe even dual-core CPUs (though we would expect Intel to design yet another die for its cheapest parts).
It is noteworthy that Intel also plans to offer two types of ADL dies for laptops: the Alder Lake 6P+8E for performance-demanding laptops and Alder Lake 2P+8E processors for mobile PCs with long battery life.
Different Coolers Required
The Alder Lake-S die with six performance cores will be considerably smaller than the Alder Lake-S die with 16 cores, and therefore its heat spot will have a different location. Therefore, engineers from MSI suggest that enthusiasts who plan to use those Alder Lake 6P CPUs will have to choose their cooling system appropriately.
While liquid coolers are generally expected to provide adequate coverage for Alder Lake 6P dies, the performance of air coolers with heat pipes will depend on the orientation of these pipes.
It is unclear when Intel plans to introduce its processors based on the Alder Lake 6P silicon. Still, we can speculate that it will talk about cheaper 12th Generation Core processors at CES in early January 2022.