Ars Technica on Intel’s New Alder Lake CPUs

Jim Salter, writing for Ars Technica:

If the AMD fans in the crowd are looking for something to crow about, this is it — both raw power draw and performance-per-watt for Intel are still much worse than on competing AMD designs. The higher core count in Alder Lake translates to a higher power draw as well — nearly back up to Intel 10th-generation levels, and well north of either the Ryzen 9 5900X or 5950X.

We saw more than a 300W system power draw at the wall for the i9-12900K — that’s over 100 watts higher than our Ryzen 9 5950X at full tilt. About 230W of that draw is accounted for by the i9-12900K’s CPU package itself, as reported by its own sensors to hwinfo64. Power efficiency is a somewhat different story: although the i9-12900K guzzles more power than the i9-11900K did, it offers stunningly higher performance — about a 50 percent net gain. (Though it’s still nearly as far behind the Ryzen 9 5950X as it is ahead of its own older sibling, unfortunately.)

The lack of overall efficiency here is somewhat surprising given Alder Lake’s hybrid big.little design, which we expected would give it an edge over AMD’s traditional all-performance-core setup. We suspect the culprit is Intel’s 10nm process — the company claims that it’s basically similar in density to the 7nm TSMC process Zen 3 enjoys, but something has to account for the discrepancy.

Intel is seemingly only capable of operating at the extremes: very fast “performance at all costs” chips that consume inordinate power, and power-efficient chips that run very slow. The sweet spot is clearly a proper balance in the middle.

Friday, 5 November 2021