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What is Alder Lake Processor?
Alder Lake is the codename of the 12th generation Core processors from Intel. The CPUs are built on the Intel 7 process, which offers a significant boost in their overall performance.
Technically, these processors are designed on a hybrid core architecture consisting of up to eight Golden Cove performance cores and eight separate Gracemont efficiency cores.
- Intel announced the 12th generation Intel Core CPUs on October 27, 2021, but launched them later on November 4, the same year.
- Developed by the Intel Research and Development Center in Haifa, Israel, the microarchitecture of these processors is designed to be used in anything from ultra-power devices to desktop PCs and workstations.
- Typically, the Alder Lake processor architecture utilizes the Golden Cove performance cores and the Gracemont efficient cores.
- The number of performance cores and efficiency cores may vary on desktop, mobile, and ultra-mobile types of Alder Lake processors.
- The performance cores and efficiency cores of these processors come with a diverse range of features and support and it is only the performance cores that feature hyperthreading.
Understanding Alder Lake Processor
The architecture of the Alader Lake processors is built on the Intel 7 fabrication process, formerly known as the Intel 10 nm Enhanced SuperFin or 10 ESF.
This design offers a performance boost ranging from 10% to 15% over the other processors.
There are different brands and versions of Alder Lake processors available. These were officially announced by Intel at different times as follows:
- The 12th generation Intel Core mobile CPUs and non-K series desktop processors were announced on January 4, 2022.
- The Alder Lake-P and Alder Lake-U series processors were announced on February 23, 2022.
- The Alder Lake-HX series processors were announced by Intel on May 10, 2022.
As for the mobile and desktop processors, 12th generation Alder Lake is sold under different brand names such as:
- Intel Core i3 for low-end performance with four cores supporting HT, AVX, AVX2 and TBT
- Intel Core i5 for mid-range performance with 6 to 10 cores supporting HT, AVX, AVX2 and TBT
- Core i7 for high-end performance with 12 cores supporting HT, AVX, AVX2, TBT, and TBMT and
- Intel Core i9 processors for extreme performance with 16 cores supporting HT, AVX, AVX2, TBT, and TBMT.
The microarchitecture is designed for use in several devices such as:
- The mainstream workstations
- Desktop computers and
- Mobile devices.
The Alder Lake CPU comes with a hybrid core architecture consisting of both performance and efficiency cores.
The features of the Golden Cove performance cores, also called P-cores, are as follows:
- Maximum clock rate ranging between 1 GHz and 5.5 GHz
- Dedicated floating-point adders
- Two more execution ports bring it up to twelve
- New 6-wide instruction decoder
- Increased Reorder Buffer (ROB) entries up to 512 instead of 352
- A Level 1 cache of up to 80 KB with 32 KB reserved for instructions and 48 KB for data per core
- Increased μOP allocations up to 6-wide from 5
- Larger μOP cache size up to 4K entries from 2.25K
- A Level 2 cache of up to 1.25 MB per core
- About 18% enhancements in the Instruction Per Cycle (IPC)
The features of the Gracemont efficient cores, also called E-cores, are as follows:
- Maximum clock rate ranging between 700 MHz and 4 GHz
- Aggregated 4-core modules
- A Level 1 cache measuring up to 96 KB with 64 reserved for instructions and 32 KB for data per core
- A Level 2 cache of up to 2 MB per core
- Increased ROB entries up to 256 from 208 in Tremont
- Higher execution ports up to 17 in place of 12
- Supports Skylake-type IPC
Other features and support of the CPU of the Alder Lake processors include:
- Up to 1 TB/s interconnect between the cores
- Intel Thread Director
- Architectural Last Branch Records (LBRs)
- Hypervisor Managed Linear Address Translation (HLAT)
- Control-flow Enforcement Technology (CET)
- Indirect Branch Tracking (IBT)
- Shadow Stack (SS)
- A shared Level 3 cache size ranging between 4 MB and 30 MB
The number of P-cores and E-cores may vary according to the model of the Alder Lake processors as follows:
- The processors designed to be used on desktops may come with up to 8 P-cores and 8 E-cores.
- The processors with UP3 designs for mobile devices may come with up to 6 P-cores and 8 E-cores.
- The ultra-mobile processors with UP4 designs may come with up to 2 P-cores and 8 E-cores.
There are actually four different types of dies produced by Intel for the Alder Lake CPU generation, each with a different number of P-cores, E-cores, and execution units.
These are designed for different purposes and market segments as follows:
- The Alder Lake-S performance CPUs come with a die size of 215.25 mm2 and up to 32 execution units in the integrated Graphics Processing Unit and are designed to be used in desktop computers to offer performance-to-value.
- The Alder Lake-S budget CPUs come with a smaller die size of 157.74 mm2 and up to 32 execution units in the integrated Graphics Processing Unit and are designed to be used in minis, and All-in-One computers.
- The Alder Lake-P CPUs come with a smaller die size of 217.18 mm2 and up to 96 execution units in the integrated Graphics Processing Unit and are designed to be used in mobile devices, portable All-in-Ones, mobile workstations, minis and more.
- The Alder Lake-M CPUs come with a much smaller die size and are designed to be used in light notebooks, computer sticks, 2-in-1 detachable PCs, tablets, and more.
I/O, Pipeline, and Compiler Support
The Alder Lake processors provide enhanced I/O support due to the following features:
- Land Grid Array or LGA 1700 socket for desktop CPUs
- Ball Grid Array or BGA 1774 Type 3 and BGA 1964 Type 4 (HX series) HDI sockets for mobile CPUs
- Up to 20 Peripheral Component Interconnect Express lanes of which 16 are PCIe 5.0 lanes and 4 are PCIe 4.0 lanes
- Direct media interface or DMI 4.0 ×8 chipset link with Intel 600 series PCH chipsets
- Intel Extreme Memory Profile or XMP 3.0 support
- Dynamic Memory Boost
- Integrated Thunderbolt 4
- Wi-Fi 6E
The architecture also supports a pipeline that is capable of executing speculative and Out-of-Order executions and register renaming.
In addition to Visual Studio, different compilers are also supported by these CPUs such as:
- ICC or Intel C Compiler
- GCC or GNU Compiler Collection
- LLVM or Low Level Virtual Machine
Instruction Set Architecture and Extension Support
A lot of different x86-64 or Intel-64 Instruction Set Architecture, along with a wide range of new and old extensions of theirs, are supported by the Intel Alder Lake processors. These are:
- AVX-VNNI or Advanced Vector Extensions Vector Neural Network Instructions
- AVX or Advanced Vector Extensions, along with AVX2 and AVX-512
- SSE or Streaming SIMD Extensions, along with all its variants such as SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4, SSE4.1, and SSE4.2
- FP16 or 16-bit floating point conversion instructions
- FMA3 or Fused Multiply Add
- PTWRITE to write data to a processor trace packet
- SERIALIZE Instruction Execution
- HRESET or History Reset
- AES-NI or Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions
- CLMUL or Carry-less Multiplication
- RDRAND or Read Random
- SHA or Secure Hashing Algorithm
- TXT or Text File extension
- MMX or MultiMedia eXtensions
- VT-x and VT-d or Virtualization extensions
However, the Alder Lake CPUs need special software and operating system support due to their unusual x86 hybrid nature.
Is Alder Lake Better than AMD?
Yes, Alder Lake is much better than AMD in a lot of ways. The first and most significant reason to say so is that the Alder Lake hardware is far more future-proof than the available AMD hardware.
What is So Great About Alder Lake?
Perhaps, the best part of the design of the Alder Lake processors is that they use hybrid architecture. This allows incorporating two different types of cores.
The first type focuses on the performance that you would expect from any processor of the new generation.
The second one is the efficient core that helps in handling programs and tasks running in the background to beef up the applications.
These cores, typically, act like a lot of cores and offer higher and faster performance than most of the AMD processors as well as a lot of processors from Intel belonging to the previous generation.
Typically, it is this feature that makes the Alder Lake processors worthy to consider for designing an advanced gaming machine, even on a budget.
Other aspects that make these 12th generation CPUs great are:
- Top-end design for boundary-pushing performance both for gaming and productivity tasks
- Efficient cores with better clock speeds
- Reasonable power draw for less demanding workloads
- Mid-range and entry-level usability with value enhancements
- Real-world background and main performance
- Greater overclocking potential
- Great option for small form factor and energy-efficient builds
- They are affordable and powerful.
Does Alder Lake Run Hot?
No, the Alder Lake CPUs usually do not run hot, even under full workload. However, the issue lies somewhere else.
It is actually in the Integrated Heat Spreader or IHS and not the CPU. The IHS on top of the chip seems to get warped. This results in less than adequate contact between the cooling system and the CPU.
This situation is a recipe for all types of applied problems and you will hardly be able to find out which particular part of the CPU is at fault.
Ideally, the inefficiency of the IHS is mainly due to the amount of pressure applied to it and, more significantly, where it is applied.
There are other factors as well that contribute to this issue. These are:
The rectangular socket, instead of a traditional square one, accommodates the hybrid architecture of the CPU with both performance and efficiency cores on it.
However, this makes things complicated, with most of the heat generated by one single core at the center.
Integrated Loading Mechanism:
The thin, nickel-plated copper plate of the heat spreader interfaces with the cooling system and the Integrated Loading Mechanism or ILM applies pressure to the socket unevenly.
This curves the heat spreaders, causing significant gaps between the cooler and the heat spreader, which the thermal paste cannot close effectively.
The ILM also puts pressure on the middle of the sides of the socket and not at the corners. This pushes the heat spreader down in the center.
The significantly shorter Z-height of the LGA 1700 socket is another factor that contributes to this issue, though it is not as big an issue as the others.
Perhaps the best solution to this issue could be raising the height of the socket by using rubber washers underneath.
Alder Lake vs Raptor Lake
- The Intel Alder Lake processors were released a couple of months earlier, on November 4, 2021, than the Raptor Lake processors, which were released on October 20, 2022, making them a bit older technology in comparison.
- The maximum clock speed attained by the performance and efficiency cores of the Alder Lake processors typically ranges from 1 GHz to 5.5 GHz and from 700 MHz to 4 GHz, respectively. On the other hand, the clock speeds of the Raptor Lake processors are up to 5.8 GHz and 4.3 GHz, respectively.
- The microarchitecture of the performance cores of the Alder Lake processors is Golden Cove, but in comparison, the performance cores of the Raptor Lake processors are built on the Raptor Cove microarchitecture.
- The cores of the Alder Lake processors may consist of variable numbers of performance and efficiency cores. On the other hand, the cores of the Raptor Lake processors consist of up to 8 performance cores and up to 16 efficiency cores.
- The Alder Lake processors are typically sold under different brand names such as Pentium, Celeron and Intel Core, but in comparison, the Raptor Lake processors are typically sold under the brand name Intel Core.
- The predecessors of the Alder Lake processor are the 10 nm mobile Tiger Lake, the 14 nm desktop Rocket Lake, and the 10 nm hybrid mobile Lakefield processors. On the other hand, the predecessor of the Raptor Lake processors is the Alder Lake processor.
- The successor of the Alder Lake processor is the Raptor Lake processors, whereas the Meteor Lake processors are the successors of the Raptor Lake processors.
Questions & Answers:
Does Intel Alder Lake Require Windows 11?
The simple answer to this question is that it really does not matter which operating system you use on an Alder Lake processor, as long as it is used for every hardware configuration and testing. However, make sure that it is a fresh install.
Is the Alder Lake CPU Good for Gaming?
Yes, the Alder Lake processors are good for gaming, if not the best among the CPUs with the same configurations, according to a few benchmarks and experts.
It is pretty fast, delivers a steady FPS, and offers a lot of overclocking headroom. All these features allow it to provide the additional oomph required for playing games on a computer system.
Is Alder Lake Better than M1?
Well, apart from the power efficiency, the Intel Alder Lake processors can beat the Apple M1 Max chips in several aspects.
However, when you consider power efficiency, the Alder Lake uses as much as 110 watts or more under heavy workloads, as opposed to the M1, which sits comfortably under 45 watts.
How Much RAM Will Alder Lake Support?
Typically, the design of the Intel Alder Lake processors supports DDR4-3200 Random Access Memory by default. Apart from that, it will also support DDR5-4800, LPDDR5, and LPDDR4 memory, depending on the model of CPU.
For example, all the desktop Alder Lake-S CPUs will support up to 128 GB of DDR4-3200 or DDR5-4800 memory in dual channel mode.
Is Alder Lake Faster than Ryzen?
Yes, it is. The main reason behind this is that the Alder Lake CPUs belong to the 12th generation, but the AMD Ryzen 5000 series of processors, in particular, usually belong to the 4th generation and are designed to be used in consumer desktop computers.
Therefore, the Alder Lake processors are much faster than any Ryzen, though a few of them match but do not surpass their speed.
Will Windows 10 Run on Alder Lake?
Yes, it will, though it is true that the Alder Lake processors were designed for the Windows 11 operating system.
It was thought that the Windows 10 scheduler will not be up to the mark in addressing the performance and efficient core combination of the Alder Lake.
However, there will actually be little to no difference in performance even while gaming with the efficiency cores turned off.
Does Alder Lake Have a GPU?
Yes, the Alder Lake processors come with a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) integrated into them.
It is usually an Intel Xe Gen 12.2 GPU that is equipped with 32 execution units in the desktop processors and as many as 96 execution units in their mobile variants.
The base and boost clock frequencies of the GPU range between 0.7 GHz and 1.55 GHz, depending on the model.
How Good is Alder Lake Integrated Graphics?
Though it basically depends on the model and the number of execution units in the graphics processor, the Intel UHD Graphics used in the Alder Lake processors are quite good.
According to a few theoretical benchmarks, the performance of that GPU is on par with the AMD Radeon RX Vega 8 iGPUs. However, it may struggle a bit while playing demanding games even in low settings for the less optimized drivers.
Does Alder Lake Require a New Power Supply?
Yes, you will need one of the best power supplies, if not one of the best and new power supplies, for using the new Alder lake chips to their full potential.
This is primarily because these CPUs typically consume a lot of power consistently, especially while playing demanding games and under a heavy workload.
Ideally, there is a lot to talk about the Intel Alder Lake chips. Good for you, this article has covered almost every aspect of its design, specs and features so that you have a fair bit of idea about this 12th generation CPU.
You can very well figure out what kind of gaming and computing performance you can expect from it.