Intel was one of the most active companies at CES 2021, announcing no fewer than four new families of processors. Among them was 12th-gen desktop processors, codenamed ‘Alder Lake’.
Hold on, you might be thinking, but the 11th-gen ‘Rocket Lake’ chips still haven’t launched? That’s true, but Intel looks set to release both generations before the end of 2020.
However, at the very same event, the company revealed more about it
Intel Alder Lake (12th-gen) release date
At the company’s CES press conference and in an official newsroom post, Intel revealed that the Alder Lake chips will be due “in (the) second half of 2021“. That’s anytime from July onwards, but a more specific release date isn’t yet known.
Comet Lake mobile CPUs launched in August 2020, so there’s a chance that Alder Lake will officially launch around the same time.
Intel Alder Lake (12th-gen) price
Price is usually one of the last things to be revealed, so it’s no surprise that there’s no news in this area. The recommended pricing of the current ‘Comet Lake’ CPUs give a rough indication of how much you can expect to pay:
Core i7-10710U – US$443 (approx. £325)
Core i7-10510U – US$409 (approx. £300)
Core i5-10210U – US$297 (approx. £220)
Core i3-10110U – US$281 (approx. £205)
However, these CPUs are designed to be integrated into devices, so consumers will never pay these prices. Intel also the Alder Lake CPUs as “a significant breakthrough”, suggesting there may be a price increase.
How will Alder Lake and Rocket Lake differ?
The key difference will be target market, which shapes how the chips are designed. As Intel itself says, Rocket Lake chips will be primarily aimed at gamers and PC enthusiasts who want the absolute best performance on offer. It looks set to offer the absolute best performance from a 2021 Intel chip, but will likely come with a price to match.
Alder Lake looks like it’ll take a different approach, in order to appeal more to everyday consumers. Unlike Rocket Lake, it looks to focus just as much on power efficiency as performance, “combining high-performance cores and high-efficiency cores into a single product”. The latter should lead to big improvements in battery life, so long as everything else remains the same.
Sound familiar? ARM-based processors have historically sacrificed slightly on performance in order to maximise power efficiency, although Apple’s M1 chip suggests it may be possible to have the best of both worlds.
With AMD and Microsoft both exploring ARM-based CPUs too, it’s no surprise that Intel wants a piece of the action. Rocket Lake doesn’t quite fall into the same category, but it’s clear the company sees a future in this type of chip.
Intel Alder Lake (12th-gen) spec news
Despite it being quite a few months before the expected release date, we already have plenty of news about Alder Lake, including from Intel itself.
As mentioned above, Intel says the system-on-a-chip (SoC) will combine high-performance and high-efficiency cores into one product. The company also speaks of “a significant breakthrough in x86 architecture”, suggesting it will be able to overcome some of the compatibility issues suffered by existing ARM-based CPUs.
It will still be based on the 10nm process, although this will be an improved version of Intel’s existing SuperFin technology. Intel is expected to move to 7nm from 2022 onwards. Alder Lake wasn’t the main announcement at CES, so the only other official news is that there will be “faster transistors”.
Before the event in Las Vegas, there were a few rumours swirling around about what Alder Lake would bring to the table. A Geekbench listing appearing to be a new Alder Lake chip leaked, with the processor sporting 16 cores and 24 threads. It also has a maximum frequency of 17.6GHz, but as NotebookCheck reported this is likely to only be an engineering sample:
Intel Corporation AlderLake-S ADP-S DRR4 CRB
Intel 0000Processor, 16 Cores, 24 ThreadsGenuineIntel Family 6 Model 151 Stepping 0https://t.co/5MX0H3U9UP pic.twitter.com/Z0ewFGqeEV
— APISAK (@TUM_APISAK)
December 29, 2020
Another popular component Twitter leaker has also got in the act, with @momomo_us suggesting Alder Lake will come with DDR5 support:
SiSoftwareIntel Alder Lake Client Platform (Intel AlderLake-S ADP-S DDR5 UDIMM CRB)https://t.co/7VjKuRDrR6Genuine Intel 0000 1.80GHz (16C 32T 1.8GHz/4GHz, 10x 1.25MB L2, 30MB L3)Intel AlderLake-S Mobile Graphics Controller (256S 32C SM3.0 1.5GHz, 512kB L2, 12.8GB) pic.twitter.com/G6QAPeQsFd
— 188号 (@momomo_us)
January 19, 2021
Intel is yet to confirm or deny this information, but moving to the latest RAM standard would enable double the bandwith and so much faster speeds. The image above also hinted that Alder Lake will hit a maximum frequency of 4.0GHz. That’s a bit lower than the 5.3GHz Intel says Rocket Lake will be capable of, but we have to remember that these chips are designed to balance performance with power efficiency. As a result, we’re excited to see the battery life figures Alder Lake is capable of.
The SiSoftware Sandra software detailed above has since been updated to support three different types of Alder Lake processor. As KitGuru reports, Alder Lake-S will be for desktops, Alder Lake-P for laptops and Alder Lake-M for lower-powered devices. This development is potentially significant, as it’s the first time the entries have been free of typos.The article goes on to say that the M and P series will both likely be based on the x86 architecture.
We’ll update this article once we know more about Alder Lake. In the meantime, check out our guide to the upcoming 11th-gen Rocket Lake CPUs.