Intel Alder Lake CPUs could arrive with a push for revamped power supplies

Promotional Graphic For Intel's Core Series Processors
(Image credit: Intel)

Intel could be readying a push for PCs built with next-gen Alder Lake processors (and new motherboards supporting these chips) to also adopt revamped power supplies (PSUs), according to the latest chatter from the rumor mill.

This comes from a VideoCardz report which claims – exercise a good deal of caution around any rumor, as ever – that it’s Intel’s desire to usher in wider support for the ATX12VO PSU spec with at least some Alder Lake-S motherboards.

ATX12VO stands for ATX 12 Volt Only and represents a much more power-efficient design of PSU which runs with a single 12V rail (as opposed to the multiple rails in traditional PC power supplies). Thus far, the standard has seen very limited adoption, but there are ATX12VO PSUs out there, and a supporting Z490 motherboard from manufacturer ASRock, for example.

The broad idea is that these PSUs are much cheaper to run as they use a good deal less electricity, particularly when the PC is idling – in that scenario, power consumption is roughly cut in half, as VideoCardz points out.

When more broadly available, these power supplies should also be more affordable in terms of their retail price, not just running costs. They’ll be a neater solution as well, needing less in the way of cabling, and having a new 10-pin connector (rather than the hefty 24-pin beast we currently have plugged into the motherboard from the PSU).

While all this sounds great on the face of it, there are naturally hurdles in the way of shifting over to more ATX12VO power supplies, including that it’ll take a good deal of effort and resources for PSU manufacturers to implement them. Motherboard makers, too, will be required to make some fairly major changes to their designs, as the other rails being ditched from the 12 Volt Only PSU (5V power delivery for example) will need to be supported directly on the motherboard instead.

Intel is now trying to push for ATX12VO to happen with motherboard makers, at least according to sources who spoke to VideoCardz, but both motherboard vendors and PSU firms alike remain unconvinced, and indeed there’s ‘strong opposition’ to this move, so states the report.

Tight timeframe

The whole endeavor looks a little shakier, too, given that Intel only has a short timeframe to actually get these manufacturers to work with it in bringing ATX12VO to Alder Lake systems, given that lead times for development on mobos and PSUs will require work to begin four to five months in advance of the 12th-gen launch.

The document which VideoCardz has seen notes that for all this to be ready for when Alder Lake processors go on sale, Intel will have to begin work with motherboard and power supply makers by the end of May 2021; in other words just a couple of weeks’ time.

If ATX12VO does happen with Alder Lake as Intel apparently desires, it won’t be across the entire ecosystem of 12th-gen hardware, mind. The report further notes that it’ll likely only happen with entry-level motherboards and prebuilt PCs looking to achieve the best power-efficiency, with higher-end boards probably staying with traditional 24-pin PSUs. It does, of course, make sense that this would be a gradual shift anyway.

The timing sounds very tight, but who knows – Intel might be able to make ATX12VO happen (at least with some motherboards) for the Alder Lake launch. Certainly from a broader green-friendly perspective, it’s very much a desirable goal to be able to make PCs more energy-efficient devices.

Alder Lake CPUs are expected to arrive in November, going by the latest from the rumor mill (though it was previously believed that September was the intended launch month).

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).