The 12th Generation Intel Core Processor represents a revolutionary leap forward in x86 processor design. Based on the Intel 7 manufacturing node, the 12th Generation Intel Core processor, “K” and “KF” versions, incorporates a hybrid design that integrates both highly advanced Performance Cores that are optimized for single-threaded applications and highly Efficient Cores optimized for scaling multi-threaded workloads, as well as managing background processes. The combination of these advanced cores that are present on the same die dramatically increases performance no matter the application type.
Performance Cores (P-Cores)
The 12th Generation Intel Core Processor is made up of two types of cores. The first are the performance cores, or P-Cores, code named Golden Cove, which are the traditional high Ghz hyperthreaded style we are all familiar with from previous CPU generations. Performance cores are optimized for high performance single threaded applications. Golden Cove however is not just a slightly improved version of the previous core generation, it is a completely redesigned architecture that includes a 1000GB/s compute fabric that ties the processor clusters as well as the individual cores together, and adds Intel Smart Cache, which shares the L2 and L3 cache among the core clusters to improve cache capacity and reduce latency. Other changes include increasing the out of order scheduler, adding more physical registers, and increasing the execution ports. All combined, Golden Cove delivers a significant 19% IPC increase.
Efficient Cores (E-Cores)
The second type of core engineered in Alder Lake are smaller single threaded (No Hyper Thread Support) efficiency cores or E-Cores, code named Gracemont. Gracemont is part of Intel’s Atom family of processors and is also a completely redesigned microarchitecture that is optimized for multi-threaded workloads that benefit from more cores rather than higher frequency cores. With Gracemont, Intel set out to engineer a highly scalable small footprint core that would outperform Skylake while consuming less power to dramatically improve performance per watt. Gracemont, which can fit four Efficiency Cores in the same space as one Skylake performance core, delivers an 80% performance improvement over Skylake in multi-threaded applications, and a 40% gain in single threaded applications at the same power levels. With this, Skylake uses over 2 times the amount of power as Gracemont to provide the same level of performance.
Intel Thread Director
The key to successful implementation of a hybrid design is workload management and the determination of which instructions get sent to which core. The advanced intelligent tool that manages this complex process and does it at nanosecond speed is a feature called Intel Thread Director which is a hardware solution integrated in all Alder Lake processors. Intel Thread Director monitors the instruction mix of each thread, provides feedback to the OS to optimize scheduling decisions of the workflow, and dynamically adapts guidance to help the OS assign tasks. Although Intel Thread Director can work with Windows 10, it will have better optimization with Windows 11 making that the ideal OS for a new system using the 12th Generation Intel Core Processor.
The 12th Generation Intel Core processor is available in Core i9, Core i7, and Core i5 versions with up to 16 Cores (8 Performance and 8 Efficient Cores), 24 threads (2 Threads per Performance Core and 1 Thread Per Efficient Core), up to 30MB of L3 Cache and up to 5.2GHz max clock speed.
DDR5 or DDR4 Memory
The 12th Generation Intel Core Processor is the first to market with support for DDR5 memory. With a different pinout, DDR5 offers several key advantages over DDR4 which include 50% higher bandwidth going from 4.8Gbps to 6.4Gbps resulting in performance gains up to 87%. In addition, DDR5 draws slightly less power and supports higher density DIMMs which will reach 128GB per module. Currently DDR5 modules are available in 8,16 and 32GB allowing for up to 512GB of memory on a standard board. DDR5 also includes on-die ECC designed in to support the larger capacity DIMMS. In addition, the Power Management IC is integrated in to the DDR5 module moving that function off the motherboard and creating more efficient, and consistent voltage regulation. For added flexibility, the 12th Generation Intel Core Processor will support either DDR5 or DDR4 memory but not both on the same board so memory support is ultimately determined by the MB manufacture. We expect board suppliers to offer a wide range of motherboards with different chipsets and different memory support options so resellers can select the best price performance option for their end clients.
PCI Gen 5.0
The 12th Generation Intel Core Processor also supports an industry first PCIe Gen 5.0. PCIe performance is measured in three ways which include giga transfers, bandwidth, and frequency each of which double from one generation of PCI to the next. This means PCIe Gen 5.0 has a giga transfer rate of 32GT/s, bandwidth of 128GB/s and a frequency of 32GHz all of which are double that of PCIe Gen 4.0 As with all generations of PCIe, the slots are backward as well as forward compatible. The 12th Generation Intel Core processor family can support up to 16 PCIe Gen 5.0 and up to 4 PCIe Gen 4.0.
Thunderbolt 4 doesn’t add increased bandwidth over Thunderbolt 3 like you may expect as both do 40Gbps. Thunderbolt 4 does however offer several improvements including the ability to connect two 4K displays or one 8K display whereas Thunderbolt 3 could only support one 4K display.
The 12th Generation Intel Core Processor family and Intel 600 series chipset support WiFi 6E which is the expanded version of WiFi 6. The biggest improvement is that WiFi 6E is open to use the 6GHz band whereas WiFi 6 uses 2.4GHz to 5GHz. The expansion to the 6GHz band quadruples the number of available airways allowing for up to seven 160MHz channels which reduces signal interference and congestion. WiFi 6E improves network performance providing greater than 1Gbps transfer and delivers lower latency of less than 1 millisecond. WiFi 6E is backward compatible with older devices but does require a WiFi 6E router to take advantage of the new performance capabilities.