Intel was one of the most active companies at CES 2021, announcing no fewer than four new families of processors. Among them was 12th-gen desktop processors, codenamed ‘Alder Lake’.
Hold on, you might be thinking, but the 11th-gen ‘Rocket Lake’ chips still haven’t launched? That’s true, but Intel looks set to release both generations before the end of 2020.
However, at the very same event, the company revealed more about it
Intel Alder Lake (12th-gen) release date
At the company’s CES press conference and in an official newsroom post, Intel revealed that the Alder Lake chips will be due “in (the) second half of 2021“. That’s anytime from July onwards, but a more specific release date isn’t yet known.
Comet Lake mobile CPUs launched in August 2020, so there’s a chance that Alder Lake will officially launch around the same time.
Intel Alder Lake (12th-gen) price
Price is usually one of the last things to be revealed, so it’s no surprise that there’s no news in this area. The recommended pricing of the current ‘Comet Lake’ CPUs give a rough indication of how much you can expect to pay:
Core i7-10710U – US$443 (approx. £325)
Core i7-10510U – US$409 (approx. £300)
Core i5-10210U – US$297 (approx. £220)
Core i3-10110U – US$281 (approx. £205)
However, these CPUs are designed to be integrated into devices, so consumers will never pay these prices. Intel also the Alder Lake CPUs as “a significant breakthrough”, suggesting there may be a price increase.
How will Alder Lake and Rocket Lake differ?
The key difference will be target market, which shapes how the chips are designed. As Intel itself says, Rocket Lake chips will be primarily aimed at gamers and PC enthusiasts who want the absolute best performance on offer. It looks set to offer the absolute best performance from a 2021 Intel chip, but will likely come with a price to match.
Alder Lake looks like it’ll take a different approach, in order to appeal more to everyday consumers. Unlike Rocket Lake, it looks to focus just as much on power efficiency as performance, “combining high-performance cores and high-efficiency cores into a single product”. The latter should lead to big improvements in battery life, so long as everything else remains the same.
Sound familiar? ARM-based processors have historically sacrificed slightly on performance in order to maximise power efficiency, although Apple’s M1 chip suggests it may be possible to have the best of both worlds.
With AMD and Microsoft both exploring ARM-based CPUs too, it’s no surprise that Intel wants a piece of the action. Rocket Lake doesn’t quite fall into the same category, but it’s clear the company sees a future in this type of chip.
Intel Alder Lake (12th-gen) spec news
Despite it being quite a few months before the expected release date, we already have plenty of news about Alder Lake, including from Intel itself.
As mentioned above, Intel says the system-on-a-chip (SoC) will combine high-performance and high-efficiency cores into one product. The company also speaks of “a significant breakthrough in x86 architecture”, suggesting it will be able to overcome some of the compatibility issues suffered by existing ARM-based CPUs.
It will still be based on the 10nm process, although this will be an improved version of Intel’s existing SuperFin technology. Intel is expected to move to 7nm from 2022 onwards. Alder Lake wasn’t the main announcement at CES, so the only other official news is that there will be “faster transistors”.
Before the event in Las Vegas, there were a few rumours swirling around about what Alder Lake would bring to the table. A Geekbench listing appearing to be a new Alder Lake chip leaked, with the processor sporting 16 cores and 24 threads. It also has a maximum frequency of 17.6GHz, but as NotebookCheck reported this is likely to only be an engineering sample:
Intel Corporation AlderLake-S ADP-S DRR4 CRB
Intel 0000Processor, 16 Cores, 24 ThreadsGenuineIntel Family 6 Model 151 Stepping 0https://t.co/5MX0H3U9UP pic.twitter.com/Z0ewFGqeEV
— APISAK (@TUM_APISAK)
December 29, 2020
We’ll update this article once we know more about Alder Lake. In the meantime, check out our guide to the upcoming 11th-gen Rocket Lake CPUs.