Alder Lake S: Intel confirms x86 hybrid cores for desktop CPUs


Intel has Linux patch clarified that Alder Lake S will use hybrid x86 CPU cores. This chip is scheduled for 2022 at the earliest and is intended to combine eight performance cores with eight economical cores. So far, this approach has only been implemented at Lakefield (test) for ultrabooks, but very convincing there.

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The basic idea has long been known from ARM-based chips for smartphones, where it was introduced as Big / Litte and later continued as Dynamiq. Intel’s Lakefield in turn combines a Sunny Cove core with four Tremont cores including a graphics unit in one die, an I / O chip and several layers of LPDDR4X RAM. Eight core and eight atomic cores are to be used for Alder Lake S, a combination of the upcoming Golden Cove and the future Gracemont would be conceivable.

Using two different microarchitectures has significant advantages, but requires an appropriate scheduler. From the hardware to the firmware to the operating system, all the adjustment screws have to mesh, otherwise the heterogeneous design will fail. At Lakefield this is already working well: Responsive workloads such as starting applications or editing photos are handled by the individual performance core. For longer tasks such as ray tracing rendering, the four economical atomic cores start up.

  • Roadmap for core and atom architectures (Image: Intel)

Roadmap for core and atom architectures (Image: Intel)

Only the top model from Alder Lake S is equipped with large and small cores: Intel speaks of an 8 + 8 + 1 design, i.e. eight core and eight Atom cores and a GT1 graphics unit. The thermal power loss (PL1) should be 125 watts, up to 150 watts are being investigated as an option. Another version of the design should be operated with 80 watts, and there should also be a classic 6-core processor without atomic cores. Alder Lake S will use the LGA 1700 socket, the chips will be manufactured in a 10 nm process.

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Example chip production CPU cores base Launch
Lynnfield Core i7-875K 45 nm 4th LGA 1156 2009
Sandy Bridge Core i7-2600K 32 nm 4th LGA 1155 2011
Ivy Bridge Core i7-3770K 22 nm 4th LGA 1155 2012
Haswell Core i7-4770K 22 nm 4th LGA 1150 2013
Devil’s Canyon Core i7-4790K 22 nm 4th LGA 1150 2014
Broadwell Core i7-5775C 14 nm 4 + eDRAM LGA 1150 2014
Skylake Core i7-6700K 14 nm 4th LGA 1151 2015
Kaby Lake Core i7-7700K 14+ nm 4th LGA 1151 2017
Coffee Lake Core i7-8700K 14+ nm 6 LGA 1151 v2 2018
Coffee Lake Refresh Core i9-9900K 14 ++ nm 8th LGA 1151 v2 2019
Comet Lake Core i9-10900K 14 ++ nm 10th LGA 1200 2020
Rocket Lake (?) 14 ++ nm 8th LGA 1200 2021
Alder Lake (?) 10+ nm 8 + 8 LGA 1700 2022
Meteor Lake (?) 7 nm (?) (?) (?)

Overview of core generations (mid-range desktop) from Intel