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Rumor | Alder Lake-S with 16 cores could see Intel bringing big.LITTLE to the desktop, 80-150W TDP and PCIe Gen4 support in tow

Intel 10nm Alder Lake-S could feature up to 16 cores in a big.LITTLE architecture. (Image Source: PC Gamer)
Intel 10nm Alder Lake-S could feature up to 16 cores in a big.LITTLE architecture. (Image Source: PC Gamer)
A new leak about the purported Intel 12th gen Alder Lake-S platform indicates that we might see something on the lines of ARM's big.LITTLE architecture in smartphones being implemented on the desktop. Alder Lake-S is thought to offer up to 16 cores with a TDP ranging from 80 to 150W along with support for PCIe Gen4. The new platform is expected to require an LGA 1700 socket and will likely be made on the 10nm++ process.

We haven't heard much about Intel's purported Alder Lake-S platform, but we do speculate that it will be a 10nm++ part made on the upcoming Golden Cove architecture that is expected to launch sometime in late 2021-early 2022. Now, a rumored core configuration of Alder Lake-S has leaked on the Chinese PC shopping forum PTT indicating that Intel could offer it's own version of ARM's big.LITTLE architecture tailored for the desktop.

ARM's big.LITTLE architecture powers the majority of smartphones in the world today thanks to its ability to designate less-demanding workloads to the LITTLE core-cluster while reserving the big ones for power-hungry tasks. Intel could also look into offering a similar configuration going by a leaked slide. 

big.LITTLE for the desktop - golden cove.GRACEMONT?

The slide denotes Alder Lake-S as having three configurations. The first is an 8+8+1 config with 8 big or high-powered cores and 8 little or low-powered ones along with an iGPU. This particular configuration is slated to have a TDP of 125W, which Intel could be looking to scale up to 150W. The 8+8+1 config will be available in an 80W TDP envelope as well. There is also a 6+0+1 config with 6 big cores and an iGPU with no little cores. 

Videocardz speculates that the purported big and small cores could, in fact, be a combination of Golden Cove and Gracemont cores, both of which are slated to be available around a similar time frame. 

Another interesting tidbit is that Alder Lake-S is speculated to require a new socket (again!) — the LGA 1700. The upcoming Comet Lake-S requires the new LGA 1200 socket and while we are not sure if Intel would be changing the socket type for the succeeding 11th gen Rocket Lake-S, it is clear that Intel is in no mood to offer long-term socket compatibility like how AMD does

Alder Lake-S is also expected to offer PCIe Gen4 support although, there is no word on support for DDR5 RAM. 

10nm++ or 7nm?

While we expect Alder Lake-S to be a 10nm++ part, Intel's own admission of lackluster 10nm performance during the recent Morgan Stanley financial analyst event does bring-up an interesting conundrum. Assuming Alder Lake-S's 2021-2022 timeline is true, Intel would have moved to a 7nm process by then. Intel's 10nm is thought to be roughly equivalent to TSMC's 7nm and by 2021, Intel's 10nm node would have matured enough with high clocks and core counts that are needed for desktops.

However, trouble looms large in the form of AMD, which is expected to have a highly mature 7nm node around the time Alder Lake-S becomes a reality. AMD is also expected to have a 5nm Zen 4 ready by 2022 and going by the recent Zen 2 Ryzen 3000 launch, it is not improbable that AMD will have a certain advantage in terms of IPC uplift and core counts compared to Intel. 

Is big.LITTLE viable for desktops?

We do not know much about what Intel plans to do with Alder Lake-S so it is too early to infer how exactly this ARM-esque configuration will benefit desktops. Unlike smartphones, desktops are generally not constrained by power or TDP. That being said, Alder Lake-S may find good use in laptops for improved battery life. 

Rumored Intel Alder Lake-S core configurations. (Image Source: PTT)
Rumored Intel Alder Lake-S core configurations. (Image Source: PTT)
Intel Core and Atom roadmap. (Image Source: Videocardz)
Intel Core and Atom roadmap. (Image Source: Videocardz)
Intel 10nm++ and 7nm will be available in 2021. (Image Source: Intel)
Intel 10nm++ and 7nm will be available in 2021. (Image Source: Intel)
 

Source(s)

PTT.cc (Chinese) Videocardz

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 03 > Alder Lake-S with 16 cores could see Intel bringing big.LITTLE to the desktop, 80-150W TDP and PCIe Gen4 support in tow
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam, 2020-03- 8 (Update: 2020-03- 8)
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam
I am a cell and molecular biologist and computers have been an integral part of my life ever since I laid my hands on my first PC which was based on an Intel Celeron 266 MHz processor, 16 MB RAM and a modest 2 GB hard disk. Since then, I’ve seen my passion for technology evolve with the times. From traditional floppy based storage and running DOS commands for every other task, to the connected cloud and shared social experiences we take for granted today, I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed a sea change in the technology landscape. I honestly feel that the best is yet to come, when things like AI and cloud computing mature further. When I am not out finding the next big cure for cancer, I read and write about a lot of technology related stuff or go about ripping and re-assembling PCs and laptops.