Intel’s 12th-Gen ‘Alder Lake’ big.LITTLE Core Configuration, Design And Layout Revealed In Leaked Coreboot Code?

Intel’s 12th-Gen desktop-grade CPUs, codenamed ‘Alder Lake’, will have the company’s hybrid core technology which was, until recently, restricted to the smartphone and ultra-portable mobile computing segment. New reports about these processors claim to reveal how Intel plans to design and configure these CPUs which will adopt the big.LITTLE core layout which was pioneered by ARM, and is currently used in the smartphone industry.

Intel’s 12th-Gen Gen Core EVO “Alder Lake” processors will be one of the most advanced and diversified CPUs ever to be manufactured for the desktop PC segment. This is because Intel is reportedly adopting the big.LITTLE configuration for the CPU in which there could be an equal number of Performance Cores and Efficiency Cores.

Intel To Combine High-Performance “Golden Cove” Cores With Energy-Efficient “Gracemont” Cores In Alder Lake CPUs?

Leaked Coreboot code offers some very interesting information about the ways in which Intel will “segment” these chips. In other words, Intel will optimize the Alder Lake CPUs based on the number and power of Performance Cores as well as Efficiency Cores. There would also be different types of onboard Xe Graphics Cores.

Intel’s 12th-Gen Alder Lake CPUs will be based on the 10nm Fabrication Node. Apparently, these CPUs will get a combination of high-performance “Golden Cove” CPU cores with energy-efficient “Gracemont” CPU cores. Additionally, Intel will further segment these chips using up to three tiers of the Gen12 Xe integrated graphics. In other words, Intel will manage the number and power of cores to fit these CPUs in different pricing brackets. Additionally, Intel will also offer three different iterations of its own in-house developed Xe onboard graphics solution, which has been confirmed to carry the ‘Iris’ branding forward.

The top variant in the Intel’s 12th-Gen Gen Core EVO “Alder Lake” processors will have 16 Cores, of which there will be eight Performance Cores and eight Efficiency Cores. These CPUs will also be segmented further, in up to three tiers, using iGPU (integrated graphics) which are tagged as GT0 in which the iGPU is disabled, GT1 in which there would be a lower-end Xe Graphics Cores; and GT2 which will have premium Xe Graphics Cores.

The new leaks suggest primary segmentation between the various 12th-Gen 10nm Intel Alder Lake CPUs appears to be primarily determined by the number of big cores. The top variant will reportedly have all 8 Big and 8 Small Cores enabled. This variant could have the GT1 (lower-end) iGPU. It is rather odd to see the top-end variant with lower-end Xe graphics, but experts suggest Intel is going with such a configuration to free up power headroom for all the big cores.

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The second or slightly lower variant in the same category could have 8 Big Cores and 6 Small Cores. They will be coupled with GT1 graphics. The next iteration could have 8 Big Cores, 4 Small Cores, and GT1 graphics. Then comes the 8+2+GT1, and lastly, 8+0+GT1 iterations.

The middle-level Intel’s 12th-Gen Gen Core EVO “Alder Lake” processors would have 6 Big Cores, and the top-end in this bracket would have 6+8+GT2 combination with progressively lower number of small cores and their various iGPU tiers in other SKUs. The lower brand extension is reportedly based around 4 Big Cores with similar segmentation of small cores and the entry-level parts with 2 Big Cores and up to 8 Small Cores.

Why Is Intel Going With big.LITTLE Core Configuration For Desktop CPUs?

It is not immediately clear why Intel is adopting Hybrid Technology for desktop applications. Desktop computers do not need to be concerned about battery-life as they are connected to AC outlets, and are not even remotely considered portable. Additionally, PCs have adequate ventilation as well as large active cooling solutions. Hence there’s no pressing need for excessively maintaining temperatures. It is, however, possible that Intel is looking to offer these CPUs in the new and fast-emerging IoT segment which mandates low-power and passively cooled, but powerful CPUs.

The new leak continues to support the previous report about the Intel’s Alder Lake CPUs which suggested the Hybrid Technology in Intel’s Alder Lake architecture would allow both types of cores to share the same instruction set and registers. However, the availability of certain instructions would depend on which core is enabled.

Alap Naik Desai
A B.Tech Plastics (UDCT) and a Windows enthusiast. Optimizing the OS, exploring software, searching and deploying solutions to strange and weird issues is Alap's main interest.