We’ve barely gotten over Intel‘s Alder Lake launch with the desktop CPUs still available sparsely and many in the process (no pun intended) of waiting for Alder Lake mobile. Yet, news for future Intel Core series has already hit the fence and the speculation train has routed its journey. Just last last week we saw Intel 14th Gen for the first time with its quad-tile test wafer and today, we have additional information regarding those tiles and what they might really be.
What we already knew
From last week’s Meteor Lake first-look, we’ve learnt that Intel will be making drastic changes to its mainstream client CPU lineup in 2023. While Alder Lake was the biggest change in Intel’s design philosophy in ages, Raptor Lake (13th Gen) will largely be the same, but Meteor Lake (14th Gen) is where we’ll see Intel dabble in unfamiliar territory once again.
Meteor Lake is set to be Intel’s debut foray into the world of monolithic chip design when it comes to mainstream client processors. It will use Intel’s most advanced packaging technology named “Foveros” which we’ll see first in Xe-HPC-based Ponte Vecchio and Sapphire Rapids data center CPUs next year. The test chip revealed to the world last week by CNET showed us how Meteor Lake’s multi-tile design could look like and everyone jumped to conclusions on what each tile represented.
The universal analysis was that the big tile in the center is the GPU tile, while the SoC tile is at the bottom, and the compute tile is at the top with a potential cache tile or perhaps another I/O tile on the side. We didn’t know who was producing each of these ties last week as the first look gave us just that, a first look and nothing else. And, considering how Intel Alder Lake and Raptor Lake will be using entirely in-house silicone, there was no real reason to speculate otherwise either. However, it seems as if that’s not the case.
The new details
Commercial Times, on the word of its own sources, reports that Intel Meteor Lake will use a third-party process node for both its GPU tile and SoC-LP (I/O) tile, while relying on in-house fabrication for only the compute tile. There were some recent rumors that suggested that Intel might look at TSMC‘s N5 (5nm) node for the GPU tile but now, according to Ctee, TSMC N3 (3nm) node is being eyed for Meteor Lake’s GPU tile.
On top of that, Meteor Lake CPUs are now rumored to feature Xe-LP Gen 12.7 graphics architecture which is a step-up from the Xe-LP Gen 12.2 architecture found in Alder Lake and Raptor Lake. Meteor Lake will also come with up to 192 EUs (Execution Units) which is more than double the maximum capacity of Alder/Raptor lake processors. So, not only will the GPU tile be powered by TSMC’s 3nm node but it will feature a new architecture and a higher core count. All of this will combine to give Meteor Lake a serious graphical bump over both Alder and Raptor Lake.
Aside from the GPU tile, Ctee reports that the main compute tile would still be in-house and manufactured using Intel 4 (7nm) process. We’ll also see a new core architecture here, moving on from Golden Cove in Alder and Raptor Lake to “Redwood Cove” in Meteor Lake. While the Redwood Cove cores will represent the P-cores in Meteor Lake, “Crestmont” will power the E-cores, moving on from the Gracemont E-cores seen in Alder and Raptor Lake. The P-cores stand for performance cores and the E-cores stand for efficiency cores.
Lastly, the SoC-LP (I/O) tile is disputed territory right now. Commercial Times reports that Intel is planning on using either TSMC N4 (4nm) or N5 (5nm) process node for the I/O tile, which will be responsible for enabling support for DDR5, PCIe 5.0, and USB 4 inside Meteor Lake CPUs. Therefore, it the report from Ctee is to be believed, Intel is all set to use three different process nodes inside each of its Meteor Lake processors.
TSMC x Intel
As part of its IDM 2.0 strategy, Intel is already working closely with TSMC for the development of Arc Alchemist GPUs based on the Xe-HPG architecture. The first batch of Arc Alchemist GPUs will be manufactured using TSMC‘s N6 (6nm) node so Intel and TSMC already have a partnership on the graphics front, hence it only makes sense that Intel would contact TSMC to fil in the gap for GPU silicone for its Meteor Lake processors. The GPU tile inside Meteor Lake is based on the Xe-LP graphics architecture which is different than Alchemist’s Xe-HPG, but it still gives TSMC somewhat of an edge as they’re familiar with the tech.
Meteor Lake is all set to debut in Q2 of 2023 and despite all the changes inside, is still expected to work on the LGA1700 socket. As of now, we know that it will have support for only DDR5 memory and PCIe Gen 5. Meteor Lake will go up against AMD‘s Zen 4-based Ryzen 7000 series of processors that will launch months after Meteor Lake’s release if things go as usual. Ryzen 7000 will be the second iteration of AMD’s 3D V-cache design so it will be interesting to see how the two monolithic chips stack up against each other (no pun intended).