At CES 2023 Intel announced several new Gracemont-based E-core CPUs. The new CPUs codenamed Alder Lake-N are built on the new Intel 7 process. That new process, plus a new generation of SoC, means that we get some very exciting changes in this generation.
New 2023 N-Series Gracemont CPUs Are a HUGE Upgrade
Looking at the block diagram of the new parts, we can see some major changes. One big one is that we finally get a 9th PCIe Gen3 lane. That means we can have things like an x4 connection for a NVMe SSD plus four x1 connections for NICs and then an extra x1 for another functionality. That is a challenge with the N5105/ N6005 chips that we have reviewed many times.
The new series also gets the new AV1 decode engine, making these better forward-looking media chips. Something that is different, yet important, is that these are now single channel memory chips. Many of the first systems we have seen with these have one DDR5 SODIMM slot for example.
Here is the list of SKUs that Intel shared. Something that will be confusing is that the N300 and N305 are now i3-N305 and Core i3-N300 parts. Buyers thinking that Core i3 means P-cores will be disappointed here. The other side is that the new Core i3 N SKUs offer 8x E-cores in two four-core clusters. That is a major improvement to the standard 4-core offerings that we have seen in this class. We wish, however, that Intel published base clocks since these are not going to be 7W parts often running at 3.8GHz.
While those are the SKUs that Intel shared in its CES release, there were actually two more N SKUs and three X SKUs that we found as part of the family as well. These are dual and quad-core models intended more for the embedded space.
In terms of performance, Intel says that Alder Lake-N is ~28% faster on a performance per core basis and then adding twice as many cores can add 42% more performance. 28% is actually huge in this market, it is like adding another core to a quad core CPU.
We are excited to try the 8-core units.
For those wondering if these new parts are going to make their way to the fanless firewalls that we have reviewed, it looks like that is the case. Currently CW, the company that makes many of those motherboards, has only a handful of chips, but they have a development platform for these:
Here we can see the single DDR5 SODIMM slot and green PCB. The company uses the green PCB for engineering sample boards and this one looks like the company’s V5 board, just with the new N-series processor. Our sense is that these systems will be out in a few months.