Intel Alder Lake 12th-gen CPUs could usher in a new socket in 2021, leaving Z490 motherboards out in the cold

(Image credit: MSI)

Intel has only just revealed its Comet Lake 10th-gen desktop processors, which require a new Z490 motherboard, switching to the LGA 1200 socket. However, those boards could be swiftly cast aside when 12th-gen Alder Lake CPUs possibly arrive in 2021 with a new LGA 1700 socket according to the rumor mill.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Alder Lake switching socket, and major hardware leakers (Momomo and Komachi on Twitter) were spilling hints about this back at the start of the year.

And now, as Wccftech spotted, Lit-tech – a Taiwanese company providing Intel voltage regulation test tools to the Asian market – has compiled a list of future Intel CPUs, with one codename indicating an Alder Lake-S part with the description noting that it’s an LGA 1700 processor, lining up with those previous rumors.

Naturally, it's necessary for some heavy use of condiments here, but another mention of LGA 1700 is obviously further fuel for the rumor fire – and given what we’ve already heard about the big changes in store with Alder Lake, this all makes sense.

Comet to Rocket to Alder

Intel’s Comet Lake switched to a new LGA 1200 socket, as seen on the freshly revealed Z490 motherboards, and as we recently reported, that socket – and those motherboards – are going to be compatible with 11th-gen Rocket Lake processors.

However, if this latest speculation is correct, that will be the end of the line for LGA 1200 (in other words, if you buy a Z490 motherboard), you can only expect it to be good for supporting Comet Lake and Rocket Lake CPUs, with Alder Lake switching to LGA 1700.

While LGA 1200 was only a relatively small change compared to its predecessor LGA 1151, maintaining the same socket size and just changing the pin configuration somewhat, LGA 1700 is expected to be a major overhaul – allegedly even changing the shape of the chip to a rectangle, rather than the traditional square CPU.

This would mean that not only would existing motherboards be incompatible with Alder Lake chips, but existing cooling solutions would need to be changed as well, at further expense to any potential upgraders.

Big changes are expected with Alder Lake all round, as it will see Intel finally move away from 14nm with its desktop CPUs, purportedly to a 10nm++ process. It will also allegedly offer a version of ARM's big.LITTLE architecture, with a configuration of 8+8+1 cores – meaning eight high-powered cores, eight low-power (little) ones, and integrated graphics. It could also support PCIe 4.0, or even 5.0 down the line (in later revisions), but there’s no word yet on DDR5 RAM.

All of this is just speculation, but whatever Alder Lake turns out to be, it’s expected to be launched in late 2021 or early 2022. While next year might seem an optimistic timeframe for CPUs which are two generations away from the still-not-on-sale Comet Lake processors, it’s possible that Intel could sneak a reveal in for 2021. Certainly if it continues to feel the pressure on the desktop from Ryzen processors, which are pretty much decimating Intel’s CPUs in this arena.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).