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Intel 12th-gen CPUs could beat AMD by bringing Lakefield feature to desktop

Intel
(Image credit: Intel)

We may still be waiting for Intel’s 10th-gen Comet Lake-S desktop CPUs to arrive, but a new leak has detailed the chipmaker’s future Alder Lake-S platform that could see it offer a version of ARM's big.LITTLE architecture designed for the desktop.

Intel first started talking about big.LITTLE in 2018 when it unveiled Lakefield, the company’s first hybrid processor that combines one big 10nm Sunny Cove core for performance and four, smaller 10nm Atom cores for low-energy tasks. While Lakefield is aimed at ultra-low power designs, the firm is reportedly planning to bring this hybrid approach to its upcoming Alder Lake-S desktop CPUs.  

Leaked slides courtesy of Taiwan's PTT reveal that much like ARM's big.LITTLE, the design of Intel’s incoming CPUs, which Videocardz speculates could arrive as 12th-gen Intel Core chips for desktop, is clearly divided into two groups.

There will be three configurations of Alder Lake-S, according to the leak. The first is an 8+8+1 configuration comprising 8 high-powered “big” cores, 8 low-powered “little” cores, an iGPU and a 125W TDP.

This 8+8+1 setup will also be available in an 80W TDP envelope, and will reportedly debut alongside a lesser-specced 6+0+1 config with 6 big cores and an iGPU with no little cores.  

Hang on a minute

What’s not clear from the leak, however, is what Intel’s smaller and bigger cores – likely based on the Golden Cove and Gracemont architectures – are designed for. With ARM’s big.LITTLE platform, which was designed for phones as a battery-saving feature, the smaller cores are used for less power-hungry applications, while the big cores are utilized for high-performance tasks. 

Though laptops and desktops are not as constrained by power as mobile devices, tailoring this CPU configuration for desktop could make for battery life improvements in future notebooks, assuming Intel goes down a similar route to ARM. 

Elsewhere, online speculation suggests that the upcoming desktop platform, which will unlikely debut until 2021 at the earliest, will be built the 10nm++ manufacturing process and support PCIe Gen4. 

There’s also talk that Alder Lake-S will require new LGA 1700 socket, suggesting that the upcoming LGA 1200 sockets will only be used for Intel’s 10th-generation Comet Lake-S and 11th-gen Rocket Lake-S CPUs. 

Separately, a leak courtesy of Dell suggests that Intel’s long-awaited 10th-generation desktop Comet Lake CPUs will be arriving any day now. A now-deleted YouTube video posted by the company showcases its latest XPS Tower desktop computers equipped with 10th-generation Intel Core processors, which are currently only available in mobile form.

We did hear that Intel wouldn't catch up with AMD on desktop until 2021, so it's possible that Team Blue may try to leverage this design to get ahead of Team Red. But, given that we're still waiting on Intel's 10th-generation desktop chips, we'll be waiting quite a while to see how this plays out.