"Intel is back."
Intel CEO Pat Kissinger confidently announced to the public in an interview with CRN Magazine.
In the past year, the blue giant of the chip industry has not had an easy life. First, the old partner Apple announced the transition from the x86 architecture to the Arm architecture, and then in January this year, the share of desktop CPUs was surpassed by the old rival AMD for the first time. , Intel’s challenges have become more severe.
Kissinger, the new CEO who returned to the banner after an 11-year absence from Intel, recently announced Intel’s next plan: 4 architecture upgrades in 5 years, catching up with rivals in 2024, and surpassing rivals in 2025. Return to the top of the industry at a speed that surpasses Moore's Law.
This is a challenging goal.
Apple’s M1 Max after a year’s absence proved its strong R&D capabilities on the Arm architecture; AMD, which has teamed up with TSMC to continuously improve the Zen architecture processor, has also vaguely shown a leading posture in desktop-level processors.
If Intel wants to prove its determination to surpass its opponents, nothing is more convincing than a good product.
And Intel's latest release codenamed Alder Lake's 12th-generation Core desktop processor is its first step in this "marathon."
The most disruptive change in x86
Before understanding the various new technologies of the new generation of Core, I believe that many of my friends are most curious about whether the performance of the 12th generation of Core can be achieved, so let us skip the technical introduction and fast forward to the performance comparison link.
Let's take a look at the performance of i9-12900K in content creation and games.
In the performance of Adobe Premiere, Adobe Lightroom and Adobe After Effects three commonly used post-production software, i9-12900K has a significant improvement compared with the previous generation i9-11900K, and the improvement of AE has doubled.
In terms of game performance, compared with i9-12900K and i9-11900K and AMD's flagship processor Ryzen 5950X, most of the test games have different ranges of lead, among which the lead is as high as 30%.
It should be noted that Intel added that the test was carried out on the Windows 11 platform. Considering that the performance of AMD processors in Windows 11 needs to be optimized, the comparison of the two game performance may not be completely accurate.
But there is no doubt that compared with the previous generation, the i9-12900K game performance has improved significantly, and online games like "League of Legends" have even increased by more than 40%.
Intel, who has been complaining about squeezing toothpaste for many years, suddenly advances by leaps and bounds, which is really unaccustomed to people. There are many launch highlights on the 12th-generation Core that are worth paying attention to:
- The first desktop processor made with Intel 7 (10nm Enhanced SuperFin) technology
- The first x86 desktop processor with a hybrid architecture design
- First release to support DDR5 memory
- First release to support PCIe5.0 standard
Among them, the new hybrid architecture design is called "the most disruptive change in the x86 platform" by Intel, which is also an important factor in the performance of the 12th generation Core.
In the past, whether it is AMD, Intel’s 4-core, 8-core or 16-core multi-core processors have adopted the "isomorphic multi-core" architecture, that is, the structure of each core is exactly the same, the status is also equal, and they can share the same code or You can let each core act separately.
Structures like "heterogeneous multi-core" are more common in processors such as Arm. The processors are distinguished between large and small cores. The large core is responsible for core computing, and the small core is responsible for low-power tasks. Each performs its own duties to improve energy efficiency.
The hybrid architecture of the 12th generation Core is simply moving from the original "isomorphic multi-core" to "heterogeneous multi-core". The original uniform core is divided into performance core (P-core) and energy efficiency core (E-core). ), the new design ideas have greatly improved the performance of the 12th generation Core in real multitasking.
Intel has released a total of 6 processors, namely 8P+8E 16-core, 24-thread i9-12900K, i9-12900KF; 8P+4E 12-core, 20-thread i7-12700K, i7-12700KF; 6P+4E 10 core , 16-thread i5-12600K, i5-12600KF
Take i9-12900K as an example. Its core architecture is divided into 8 P-cores and 8 E-cores. Among them, P-core supports hyper-threading, with a total of 24 threads.
The P-core, which uses the new Golden Cove architecture, has greatly improved single-core performance compared to the 10th and 11th generation Cores. The base frequency reaches 3.2GHz, the turbo frequency is up to 5.1GHz, and the turbo frequency Max 3.0 accelerates up to 5.2GHz.
Compared with the 10th generation Core, P-core has increased by 28%. It seems that upgrading the 10nm manufacturing process does significantly improve performance.
The performance of E-core is equally eye-catching. In traditional "small and large core" architectures such as Arm, the performance of small cores is often far inferior to that of large cores, but the single-core performance of E-core and P-core is not so different. The single-core performance of E-core is better than that of the 10-generation Core. It is also slightly higher, with a base frequency of 2.4GHz and a core frequency of up to 3.9GHz.
This also confirms Intel's statement: Heterogeneous architecture is not born to save power, but to better improve performance, which can be said to be a "two-pronged" toothpaste.
The hybrid structure of P+E significantly improves the multi-thread processing capability. Compared with the i9-11900K (250W), the multi-core performance of the i9-12900K (241W) is 50% higher, and the power is even lower. "Quick" and "don't eat grass."
Another big advantage brought by the hybrid structure is that it has a better energy efficiency ratio. Take the i9-12900K as an example. Even if its power is reduced to 125W, its multi-core performance is 30% stronger than the previous generation, and then it is reduced to its A quarter of 65W can still be equal to it.
In other words, now using it to set up a mini computer of about 100W, the performance can catch up with the performance of the current 250W processor, which is indeed a substantial technological advancement.
Windows 11 is Alder Lake's best partner?
The primary challenge facing the 12th-generation Core performance hybrid architecture is how to efficiently schedule two different cores, P-core and E-core.
In the most ideal case, some tasks with higher computational requirements should be given priority to P-core, and some permanent applications like background can be given to E-core.
To this end, Intel has developed the Intel Thread Director (hardware thread scheduler) function, which is directly built into the CPU core hardware and cooperates with Windows 11 for thread scheduling.
To put it simply, load threads with high performance requirements, such as some conventional scalar operations, vector floating point calculations, and machine learning, will be assigned to the optimal core of P-core by the scheduler.
When a higher priority load appears, the simple load that was originally running on P-core will be transferred to E-core, allowing P-core to free up time to handle these tasks. This scheduling process is controlled by Windows 11. Completed by the Lord.
Among them, the game live broadcast is a typical multitasking scene. In the process of game live broadcast, the processor needs to calculate the game image while pushing the game screen to the live broadcast platform. At this time, P-core can be responsible for high-performance image processing, and E-core is responsible for the continuous image in the background. Push the stream and share the calculation pressure.
Based on the hybrid architecture, the processing performance of multi-tasking scenarios such as game live broadcasts and video editing will be greatly improved, but this is also based on a premise: the Windows 11 system can recognize different applications and automatically schedule threads.
If users are still using Windows 10, can an efficient hybrid architecture still work?
Intel claims that Intel Thread Director is developed based on the Windows 11 platform, so Windows 10 cannot use this most effective scheduling method.
However, since Intel has developed Lakefield, which is also a hybrid architecture, on the Windows 10 platform, Windows 10 can basically recognize P-core and Ecore, and assign work tasks according to its built-in work scheduling strategy.
In most user scenarios, it is difficult for users to perceive the performance difference between Windows 10 and Windows 11 for the 12th generation Core.
But for some performance testing software like Benchmark, if Windows 10 does not schedule all the loads on the P-core, then it is still possible to get significantly different test results.
The new technological change has just begun
▲ Lakefield processor
Intel’s idea of hybrid architecture has been around for a long time. Before Alder Lake, Intel had launched a Lakefield mobile processor with a 1+4 hybrid core design in 2018, and launched corresponding products in 2020.
As Intel’s first hybrid architecture test, Lakefield’s design is closer to the traditional concept of “small and small cores”. Its core architecture consists of 1 10th-generation i3 and i5-level Sunny Cove cores and 4 P-series Atom-level Tremont cores. composition.
Lakefield is not a successful attempt in general. Because it is geared towards mobile platforms, Intel is more focused on increasing its battery life. This trade-off makes its processing performance not outstanding.
▲ Galaxy Book S Picture from: CNET
After launching several thin and light products such as Galaxy Book S, ThinkPad X1 Fold, Surface Neo, etc., Lakefield soon entered the end of the product phase and ceased production in the middle of this year.
Lakefield, who has not been successful, has allowed Intel to accumulate a lot of experience in designing hybrid architectures. This has also been applied to the development of Alder Lake. For example, the important Thread Director thread scheduler was developed based on the early version on Lakefield.
The biggest difference between Alder Lake and Lakefield is that Alder Lake’s hybrid architecture is designed with performance first, and its E-core has reached the single-core performance of the 10th generation Core at the same frequency, which is almost equivalent to Lakefield’s "big core" .
Therefore, applying the traditional "small and large core" structure to explain Alder Lake's performance hybrid architecture is not completely accurate, because the difference between the performance and status of its P-core and E-core is smaller than the traditional concept.
With the addition of a single-core E-core that performs well, Alder Lake can improve the CPU’s multi-threaded and multi-tasking performance with lower energy consumption, without blindly polishing and piling up the P-core to achieve better The energy consumption ratio is not only significant for desktop-level platforms, it can also play a greater role on notebooks.
According to the news announced by Intel, the 12th-generation Core desktop and mobile devices are all based on the Intel 7 process, and both use a new hybrid architecture. The new Alder Lake is just the beginning.
This can’t help but make people look forward to it. The 12th-generation hybrid architecture mobile terminal (6+8, total 20 threads) and ultra-low-power processor (2+8, total 12 threads) that will appear next will be used for notebooks, Windows tablets, etc. What kind of excellent energy consumption performance the device brings, the next thin and light notebook or game notebook to be released is likely to usher in a performance explosion.
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