Alder Lake’s Small Cores Could Mean Big Things for PC Gaming

Alder Lake’s Small Cores Could Mean Big Things for PC Gaming

Intel’s Architecture Day gave us a lot to go on, especially with their detailed reveal of the Alder Lake processors. The company exposed the hybrid chips carried core makeup and the somewhat magic scheduler.

It’s very exciting for CPUs in general, but specifically for gamers and streamers, as Intel expects them to benefit the most from Alder Lake’s new, high-efficiency cores.

Alder Lake processors will feature a blend of ‘Performance’ cores and ‘Efficient’ cores, and each would serve a slightly different purpose in general PC use.

The Performance core is what we consider a CPU core on desktop; it’s about the high clock speeds and single-threaded performance. These would be built on the Golden Cove architecture, a step ahead of the Willow Cove cores currently found in 11th Gen Tiger Lake mobile processors, and two steps from the Cypress Cove design in Rocket Lake desktop chips.

The Efficient core is focused on power efficiency and multithreaded workloads. Till now, these were known as Gracemont cores, and they are a carry-over from Intel’s Atom lineup.

However, the Efficient core has a higher IPC than Skylake while demanding a fraction of the power and space. Through the advances in design and the advanced Intel 7 process node, the Efficient core offers 40% better performance than Skylake for the same power or the same performance for 40% less power.

The top of the line Alder lake chip will come with eight Performance cores and eight Efficient cores. That totals out to 24 threads, as each Performance core also offers Hyper-Threading.

Intel Architecture Day 2021 (Event Replay)
Intel Architecture Day 2021

Having been promised a 19% general performance increase, it makes sense that gamers are looking forward to the Performance core. But the small efficient cores are just as appealing and exciting. These cores could really shake up the PC gaming scene.

Intel has said that these smaller cores may become extremely useful in offloading lower priority tasks from the chunky Performance core during a gaming session. This would include things like streaming and recording, something Intel has stated this hybrid performance architecture does very well.

This comes down to the Thread Director, a hardware-based scheduler that will help the OS (Windows 11) in dividing tasks between the cores.

Alder Lake’s Small Cores Could Mean Big Things for PC Gaming
Intel Core | Source: Official Website

The Thread Director will be located on the Alder lake chips themselves and will function by giving more information than it would otherwise provide to the OS.

Aided by the Thread Director, the OS will mindfully shift tasks around, placing high-priority tasks at the top of the Performance core queue and placing low-priority tasks on the Efficient cores.

The best example that we have in the lab is gaming in parallel to whatever other workloads that you’re running. Can be streaming, can be web browsing. They can be like recording the game, this is a great example of the game runs on the Performance core and the side activities run on the Efficient core. And you can run the game in same performance even if you have other tasks running in parallel.

Ran Berenson, GM of Core and Client Development Group

If Intel nails the scheduling with Alder Lake, it would mean that games will get first priority to Performance cores for maximum frame rates, while the Efficient cores will handle the low-priority software.

Aside from the new and improved power management system, Intel isn’t ready to talk more about the final specs yet. But this all sounds very promising for gaming, and we’re hoping Intel can deliver on its promises.

About Intel

Intel Corporation is an American multinational corporation and technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California, in Silicon Valley. It is the world’s largest semiconductor chip manufacturer on the basis of revenue, and is the developer of the x86 series of microprocessors – the processors found in most personal computers (PCs).

Incorporated in Delaware, Intel ranked No. 46 in the 2018 Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.