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Intel Iris Max Xe Graphics
Intel Iris Max Xe Graphics

Exclusive: Intel Client CPU Roadmap Update for 2021

It’s the eve of the RX 6000 series launch, and I figured I better get this out before everyone is focused on the review of AMD’s new GPUs. We have obtained what we believe is a recent internal Intel roadmap for their client CPUs, that is, their desktop, mobile, and Atom CPUs.

Desktop

As we all know, Rocket Lake is Intel’s next desktop CPU and it has already been confirmed for a Q1 launch by Intel, which is reflected in the roadmap. It features 8 Cypress Cove cores, which are similar to the Sunny Cove cores of the Ice Lake CPU; however, since Ice Lake is a 10nm processor and Rocket Lake is a 14nm processor, this means Cypress Cove has been backported. Backporting can be done right, but I personally do not have high expectations for Rocket Lake and its Cypress Cove cores because Sunny Cove was probably never designed with a 14nm version in mind, so there could be some complications. Additionally, we expect Rocket Lake to utilize a 10nm Xe iGPU with 32 EUs on its own dedicated die, making Rocket Lake an MCM design.

Many will also know that Alder Lake S is after Rocket Lake and, like many suspect, it is coming out towards the end of 2021, as early as Q3. Alder Lake is Intel first hybrid architecture processor to come out for desktop and mainstream laptops; Alder Lake S is just one of three variants. Alder Lake S is expected to offer 8 Golden Cove (big) cores and 8 Gracemont (little) cores. I have for a long time maintained that Alder Lake was designed specifically for the mobile segment and was placed on the desktop roadmap as a replacement for the canceled desktop versions of Ice Lake and Tiger Lake.

The last CPU on the roadmap is Raptor Lake, which I thought was a never before leaked codename until I discovered this report from a Hungarian website called Prohardver which seems to have reported on Raptor Lake first. Our roadmap says Raptor Lake will launch in 2022, but does not specify which quarter; it is possible it will launch around the middle or end of the year. Raptor Lake uses the same version of 10nm as Alder Lake, and Prohardver asserts that Raptor Lake is an “enhanced Alder Lake” that uses Ocean Cove cores instead of Golden Cove cores, but we cannot confirm this. In my opinion, it is unlikely Intel will launch a 7nm CPU for desktop in 2022 due to the existence of Raptor Lake (more on that later). We will likely have to wait for 2023.

Laptop and Mobile

Onto our mobile processors. 2021 will be more busy for mobile than desktop because of two upcoming CPUs: Tiger Lake H and Alder Lake P.

Tiger Lake H is launching first and will arrive as early as Q2. It should have 8 Willow Cove cores, the same cores of Tiger Lake U, but unlike its little brother, Tiger Lake H has the weaker variant of the Xe iGPU, which may be identical or nearly identical to the Xe iGPU on Rocket Lake. Tiger Lake H is expected to be a successor to Intel’s current 10th gen H series which has been battered by AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series; Intel’s 14nm CPUs are in desperate need of replacement. I expect Tiger Lake H to be competitive with the Renoir based Ryzen 4000 CPUs, but with Cezanne based Ryzen 5000 series approaching I wonder if Tiger Lake H can truly stand out.

Alder Lake P comes soon after, as early as Q3. We’re not sure exactly what configuration of cores Alder Lake P will feature, but according to our recent exclusive, one possibility is 2 big cores and 8 little cores. It is entirely possible it will feature more big cores but we are not sure if that is a real processor. Additionally, Alder Lake P offers a fast iGPU, but we’re not sure if this is a brand new iGPU or the same iGPU featured in Tiger Lake U. Basically, we don’t know a ton about Alder Lake P’s specifications. It is also possible Alder Lake M is also launching around the same time as Alder Lake P, but since Alder Lake M is more of a Lakefield successor, it has been left out of this roadmap.

Meteor Lake P also makes an appearance on this roadmap, but all we can say for sure is that it’s launching in 2022 and is a 7nm processor, two details which Intel already confirmed. However, there was one detail that caught my eye, or rather, a lack of a detail. Meteor Lake is not on the desktop section of the roadmap. According to our sources from over a year ago, Meteor Lake was the successor to Rocket Lake, not Raptor Lake. Where did Meteor Lake for desktop go? Well, perhaps it ended up just like Ice Lake and Tiger Lake for desktop, and Raptor Lake is the replacement.

Atom

We only have one processor in the Atom lineup and it’s the already anticipated Jasper Lake, which is based on Tremont it seems. It is the only CPU on this roadmap that uses the Ice Lake U version of 10nm. It could launch this year but since there aren’t too many weeks left in 2020, I think it’s more likely we’ll see Jasper Lake launch in early 2021, well within Q1. Based on this roadmap, we should not expect any successors to Jasper Lake until after 2022.

So, Intel’s roadmap is a bit of a mess as usual, that’s not surprising. I think the most surprising detail here was that Meteor Lake P seems to be the only Meteor Lake we’re getting, which is very disappointing for desktop users. I personally believe this is actually a symptom of an industry wide problem with the desktop, which has become increasingly irrelevant due to the rise of the laptop, mobile, and server segments. AMD probably isn’t going to cancel a bunch of desktop CPUs but I think it’s very likely both Intel and AMD will just start giving desktop users laptop and mobile CPUs with a higher TDP instead of making unique or close to unique chips for desktop. I strongly suspect AMD will replace Zen 3 CPUs with Zen 4 APUs in 2022.

That will do it for this leak, but we’re not done yet with Intel roadmaps. Stay tuned.

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