Intel finally moves to 10nm with new 12th Gen Alder Lake chips

Intel finally moves to 10nm with new 12th Gen Alder Lake chips
28 Oct, 2021

Intel’s been teasing its 12th generation Alder Lake chips since January this year, but now the company is ready to launch these processors. The company has been under pressure because of competition from AMD and the increasing popularity of mobile chips, which is perhaps why it claims that the new flagship Core i9-12900K processor is the “world’s best gaming processor”.

But the 12th generation Intel chips are about more than these claims. The company had talked about these chips and their hybrid architecture back in July at its Architecture Day event this year. Like mobile chips, which are built on ARM architecture, the 12th generation Alder Lake processors also have separate cores for performance (P) and efficiency (E).

“The performance hybrid architecture of 12th Gen Intel Core processors is an architectural shift made possible by close co-engineering of software and hardware that will deliver new levels of leadership performance for generations,” said Gregory Bryant, Intel executive vice president and general manager of the Client Computing Group.

New Intel Core processors

For instance, the Intel Core i9-12900K has a total of 16 cores, which is split between right P cores and eight E cores. It also uses the company’s HyperThreading technology, which allows each processor core to perform more than one task parallely. The 12900K also has 24 threads and clocks up to 5.2GHz using Intel’s Turbo Boost Max 3.0 technology. The company claims it offers 19 percent performance improvement in the performance cores, as compared to its 11th generation iterations.

The 12th Generation Alder Lake line also includes the Core i7-12700K with 12 cores and 20 threads, and the Corei5-12700K with 10 cores and 16 threads. The i7 has eight P cores and four E cores, while the i5 has six and four each. The chips have integrated graphics, but they will be sold in separate “KF” variants, which come without the graphics chip.

Further, Intel says that the company has worked closely with Microsoft in order to optimize the performance of its 12th Gen chips for Windows 11. “With Windows 11 and Intel’s new Thread Director technology, users will see their PC performance reach new heights on the new 12th Gen Intel Core family of processors,” said Panos Panay, executive vice president and chief product officer at Microsoft. 

Intel Thread Director is software built inside most Intel processors today, which optimizes how these chips manage tasks on a PC. It helps put tasks on processor threads based on their need for performance or efficiency.

New manufacturing process

Intel has received much criticism over the past two years for failing to keep up with competitors. While AMD has moved to 7nm chips, Intel’s chips remained on 14nm manufacturing nodes. To that end, the Alder Lake is the first Intel chips to drop the 14nm process the company has been using since 2015. 

The chips are built on the Intel 7 process, which is what the company calls its 10nm manufacturing node. As mentioned before, the hybrid architecture isn’t something Intel has been known for either.

PC chips made by Intel and AMD usually use the x86 architecture, which is different from ARM designs. The P and E cores on this chip resemble the big.LITTLE architecture that ARM chips usually have. In those chips, the ‘big’ cores are meant for performance driven tasks, while the ‘LITTLE’ cores provide efficiency.

The new Alder Lake chips will start shipping globally from November 4, though the company hasn’t announced when they will make it to India.