We all know that Intel has adopted a new architecture design in the 12th generation Core processors, which is a heterogeneous hybrid architecture. This architecture is mainly through the P-Core performance core + E-Core energy efficiency core design, to make up for the shortcomings of the previous architecture Intel core number. This design is also habitually referred to as the “size of the core”.
In this heterogeneous architecture, the P-Core, the so-called large core, is primarily responsible for heavily loaded tasks through high frequency and hyperthreading, while the E-Core, the so-called small core, is primarily responsible for lighter loaded tasks and multi-threaded performance throughput and collaboration capabilities.
At the same time, P-Core and E-Core use different micro-architecture designs, the former is the new Golden Cove micro-architecture and the latter is Gracemont micro-architecture.
We all know that heterogeneous design has been available for a long time under ARM architecture. And because one core is mainly responsible for the performance and the other core is mainly responsible for low power consumption, the heterogeneous design under ARM architecture is imaginatively called small and large core design by users. Since the ARM architecture is mainly for mobile platforms, such as smartphones and tablets, its small and large cores are relatively more biased towards the energy part, after all, for these mobile devices, low power consumption, long battery life, and low heat is the first problem that needs to be solved.
But for PCs, especially gaming notebooks or desktop PCs, there are no power consumption and cooling concerns, so Intel’s P-Core+-E-Core hybrid architecture design is not strictly speaking equivalent to the ARM architecture of small and large cores.
In fact, in terms of “small and large cores”, the first thing to be clear is that in a small and large core heterogeneous architecture, large cores are relative to small cores and large, small cores are relative to large cores and small, if across the system platform to simply say that small cores must be small, large cores must be large, is undoubtedly not rigorous enough.
So what is the difference between Intel’s “big and small cores” and ARM’s big and small cores?
The first thing that is clear is that the 12th generation Core Alder Lake’s E-Core is not a small core in the pure sense of the word. Because under Intel’s heterogeneous architecture system, Gracemont micro-architecture’s E-Core undertakes collaborative multi-threaded throughput performance enhancement, and its actual performance exceeds that of Skylake and Zen 2, which are definitely not small cores, it just consumes less energy compared to Golden Cove’s P-Core.
Secondly, from the naming point of view, Gracemont is undoubtedly derived from this lineage of Atom, whose previous generation micro-architecture is Tremont. Compared with Golden Cove micro-architecture’s P-Core, Gracemont micro-architecture’s E-Core is indeed smaller, but its actual performance is more than 20% higher IPC compared to Tremont.
In fact, for the 12th generation Core, the E-Core is more importantly responsible for multi-threaded tasks, such as rendering, compression/decompression, etc. The Gracemont, which is improved on Tremont, actually has a very good performance in rendering. This is due to its dual front-end six decode, and integer floating point separation design. You know, this design is not available in the small cores of ARM architecture.
In addition, Intel has expanded the cache under the hybrid architecture. With the addition of L2 cache for P-Core and L2 cache per core for E-Core, Intel has also enhanced and expanded the shared L3 smart cache. Depending on the number of cores, the L3 smart cache of Intel’s 12th generation Core processors is increased to a maximum of 30MB, effectively increasing the amount of memory data and reducing latency.
And in terms of frequency, E-Core RWD capability from 3.6GHz to 3.9GHz, the performance is also quite good.
In fact, for the small and large core design, one of the places where people are easily misled is that the word “small and large core” simply describes the size of the core. In fact, in essence, this description ignores the large and small frame of reference. In a heterogeneous architecture with large and small cores, the definition of large and small cores takes into account not only the area of the core, but also the role it plays. The “small core” in the 12th generation Core is not only responsible for low power consumption, but also for multi-threaded tasks with a heavier load.