Intel Alder Lake-S Desktop-Grade CPUs To Feature Unique Shared Instructions big.LITTLE ‘Hybrid Technology’?

Intel’s Alder Lake-S desktop-grade CPUs are expected to pack a total of 16 cores. Moreover, the CPU were believed to have 8 Power Cores and 8 Efficiency Cores arranged in big.LITTLE configuration found in ARM Mobility CPU solutions. Instead, a new ‘Hybrid Technology’ will be first used inside Intel’s Lakefield CPU which involves deploying Big and Small cores with varying sets of instructions.

Intel recently indicated it was developing and using Hybrid Technology with Lakefield processors. These ultra-low-power processors for compact devices, built using Foveros stacking technology would be similar to the big.LITTLE layout of cores in which power or performance cores are embedded alongside energy-efficient cores for better battery longevity. It has long been rumored that Intel could take the same approach of Hybrid Technology for the desktop-grade CPUs as well. It seems the upcoming Alder Lake-S CPUs, meant for desktop computers, would be the first to have the big.LITTLE layout.

Hybrid Technology in Alder Lake Architecture To Feature 16 Cores In 8+8 big.LITTLE Configuration:

According to a previous report, the upcoming 10nm Intel Alder Lake-S desktop-grade CPU would feature CPU Cores in the 8+8 core configuration. Half the cores would be Big Cores and the other would be Small Cores. Needless to add, the processors would thus feature a total of 16 cores. Moreover, the Big Cores would be responsible for Boost Clock Speeds and the intense burst of computational power requirements. Meanwhile, the Small Cores would always remain functional to cover the regular or routine computational activities.

A new report, however, claims that the Hybrid Technology in Intel’s Alder Lake architecture would allow both types of cores to share the same instruction set and registers, but the availability of certain instructions would depend on which core is enabled.

A screenshot of what appears to be Intel’s internal documentation indicates that AVX-512, TSX-NI, and FP16 will all be disabled when Hybrid Technology is enabled. In other words, when both the Big and Small Cores are activated, the aforementioned protocols will remain disabled. These protocols will get activated only when the technology is disabled. In other words, when Small Cores will be inactive or ‘disabled’. It is important to note that the Small Cores will be disabled temporarily, depending on the tasks.

[Image Credit: VideoCardz]

Why Is Intel Adopting big.LITTLE Architecture For Desktop Computing?

It was ARM that first commercially deployed the big.LITTLE architecture for smartphone processors. For a long time, ARM has successfully designed and deployed several powerful processors that contain Power and Efficiency Cores. They are critical to offering performance on demand and push battery life. Simply put, the Big/Small core architecture clearly makes sense for mobile devices.

[Image Credit: Chiphell via @RetiredEngineer]
However, it is not immediately clear why Intel is adopting Hybrid Technology for desktop applications. Desktop computers do not need to be concerned about battery-life as they are connected to AC outlets, and are not even remotely considered portable. Additionally, PCs have adequate ventilation as well as large active cooling solutions. Hence there’s no pressing need for excessively maintaining temperatures. It is, however, possible that Intel is looking to offer these CPUs in the new and fast-emerging IoT segment which mandates low-power and passively cooled, but powerful CPUs.

The Intel Alder Lake architecture is expected to debut as the 12th Gen Core series. Experts estimate Intel might commercially launch these CPUs in 2022. It is quite likely that the Hybrid Technology could mandate the deployment of a new type of socket. Some of the benefits of this new generation of CPUs built on the recently perfected 10nm Production Process includes support for the next-gen DDR5 memory and PCIe 4.0.


Alap Naik Desai

A B.Tech Plastics (UDCT) and a Windows enthusiast. Optimizing the OS, exploring software, searching and deploying solutions to strange and weird issues is Alap's main interest.