Intel leans on more E-cores for performance improvements in leaked 13th gen CPU lineup

A Core i7-12700.  A leaked list of Intel's 13th-gen Core desktop CPUs claims that most of them will get more E-cores than their 12th-gen counterparts.
enlarge / A Core i7-12700. A leaked list of Intel’s 13th-gen Core desktop CPUs claims that most of them will get more E-cores than their 12th-gen counterparts.

Andrew Cunningham

Our understanding of Intel’s 13th Gen Core CPUs, codenamed “Raptor Lake,” continues to take shape ahead of their planned launch this fall. Motherboards for current-generation Alder Lake chips have tentatively added support for them, and now an alleged list of the desktop CPU lineup (as reported by Tom’s Hardware) suggests that Intel will rely on the small efficiency cores of its CPUs (E cores) for much of their performance gains.

Based on Intel’s disclosures, we know that Raptor Lake CPUs will use the same CPU and GPU architectures and Intel 7 manufacturing process as Alder Lake. The large performance cores (P cores) will be based on an architecture called “Raptor Cove”, although technical documents do not distinguish between these and Alder Lake’s “Golden Cove” cores. And the E-cores will be based on the same Atom-derived Gracemont architecture that Alder Lake uses. The large cores do the heavy lifting and provide the best performance for games and other apps that benefit from good single-core performance, while the E-cores contribute to lower-priority and background tasks, plus workloads like CPU-based video encoding and display tasks that can use all processor cores at once. It’s hard to make exact performance comparisons, but AnandTech’s benchmarks of E-cores individually suggest they’re usually about as fast as a midrange 6th Gen Skylake CPU core.

Intel has also confirmed that some Raptor Lake chips will feature up to 24 physical cores, divided into eight P-cores and 16 E-cores. Alder Lake CPUs have up to eight E-cores, for a total of 16 physical cores.

This purported CPU list builds on that knowledge, suggesting that top-end Raptor Lake Core i9 CPUs will all feature 16 E-cores, up from the current eight, and that Raptor Lake Core i7s will all feature eight E-cores. have true Alder Lake i7s including eight or four. Clusters of four or eight E-cores are also coming to the entire Core i5 tier for the first time. The current generation of i5-12600 (non-K), 12500 and 12400 CPUs will have no E-cores at all, while the i5-13600 and 13500 will reportedly contain eight E-cores, and the i5-13400 will come with four. The only Raptor Lake chip with no E-cores is apparently the i3-13100, which remains a quad-core CPU with all P-cores.

The alleged Raptor Lake desktop CPU lineup.  E-cores always come in groups of four because a cluster of E-cores share cache and other resources which makes it impossible to split them into smaller groups.

The alleged Raptor Lake desktop CPU lineup. E-cores always come in groups of four because a cluster of E-cores share cache and other resources which makes it impossible to split them into smaller groups.

The “add more cores” approach is in line with Intel’s strategy to improve the performance of its 8th, 9th and 10th generation CPUs. These were all based on a 2015-era version of the Skylake architecture and 14nm manufacturing process, but the company steadily added more cores to counter AMD’s success with its Ryzen CPU lineup. While Intel uses the same manufacturing process for Alder Lake and Raptor Lake, it becomes easier to make bigger and faster chips in larger quantities as chip yield improves and defect rates decrease.

The 13th-generation chips are listed at the same TDP levels as their 12th-generation counterparts, although the base CPU frequencies are lower for every chip except the i3-13100. Turbo Boost frequencies will likely be slightly higher than 12th gen CPUs, so Intel can still lay claim to improved single-threaded performance. But if all cores are loaded at once, they may not be able to run at Alder Lake speeds and stay within Intel’s standard power envelope. As with Alder Lake, increasing the power limits of Intel’s defaults should dramatically increase the performance of most of these chips, at the cost of (sometimes disproportionately) higher power consumption and higher temperatures.

AMD’s upcoming Zen 4 CPU architecture will still use a more traditional design, with varying numbers of identical “P-cores” (AMD doesn’t call them that, but for consistency’s sake it’s helpful to think of it that way). Early and extremely vague rumors suggest that Zen 5 could have a hybrid design, with Zen 5 P-cores and E-cores based on a modified version of Zen 4, but AMD has not confirmed this, and it is unlikely that we will. will get. official news about Zen 5 until next year at the earliest.

These hybrid CPU architectures have intermittently caused problems with older or obscure software, including some old games and test software that for some reason interpret the presence of a second CPU architecture as the presence of a second physical computer. But as time goes on, these issues are resolved via Windows patches and app updates, and at least on some PCs you can get around them in the short term by disabling the E-cores.

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