AMD’s Zen 3 architecture is almost here, and it looks like Team Red may finally claim the CPU gaming crown for the first time in years, if what it showed during the official announcement is indeed confirmed by reviews. Intel, on the other hand, does not appear to be too concerned regarding these developments. It still has the market share advantage, although analysts point out that we could see a 50-50% scenario for the DIY side by 2022, if AMD keeps outpacing Intel at this rate. The jump from 14 nm to 10 nm seems to be quite difficult for Intel, forcing a new design that combines big cores with small cores inspired by ARM’s mobile architectures. Intel is essentially unable to squeeze more big cores in a desktop package with ~125W TDP, so it is introducing the smaller cores that draw less power. Additionally, the jump to 10 nm will bring a new CPU socket called LGA1700, so the CPUs themselves could get bigger. Just how much bigger? The guys over at Videocardz recently posted a picture of an Alder Lake-S CPU engineering sample that shows the size difference between the 2021 processors and the current Comet Lake-S models.
From what we can see in the image, the Alder Lake-S sample is only 7.5 mm taller than the Comet Lake-S, but that is quite enough to squeeze in an additional 500 contact pads. If we look closely, we can also see the pads themselves appear to be smaller, and the circuitry in the middle looks to have different structures. We are not sure why some of these structures got blurred out, most likely for “copyright” purposes.
It is quite surprising to see engineering samples so early in the wild, considering that Intel plans to release Alder Lake-S in the second half of 2021 (apparently 4Q 2021, according to Videocardz sources). Until then, Intel also intends to release the Rocket Lake-S models with the same big/small design, but these CPUs will only be limited to 8 cores maximum, and are considered by many analysts dead on arrival if they are to compete with AMD’s Zen 3 CPUs. Alder Lake-S should somehow make up for the core count problem, as it supports up to 16 cores (8 big + 8 small). However, the small cores might not support hyperthreading as suggested by a series of recent SiSoft Sandra tests , so maximum threads could be limited to just 24. Moreover, the LGA1700 socket is supposed to last at least three years, while the LGA1200 socket introduced with this year’s Comet Lake CPUs could be abandoned by next year.
The silver lining here would be Intel introducing DDR5 and PCIe 5 support, apparently ahead of AMD, and the Alder Lake-S IPC per single core is also supposed to be higher compared to Zen 3. Still, AMD will probably launch Zen 4 by Q4 2021, leaving Intel behind once again.