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.
Single channel memory is going to hurt/bottleneck
In what possible sense is a $309 Atom processor ‘entry-level’? You can get eight full Zen3 cores for less, and it’s not as if the chip has four 10Gbit Ethernet controllers or 64 PCIe lanes.
At a tenth the price it would be a pretty decent deal; for twice the price of a four-P-core Raptor Lake it’s nonsensical.
I’d agree on the $309 being too much for this. Maybe $200 max. It doesn’t seem like they’re trying to go after some premium market for lower power chips here.
My first reaction was…huh…so we only use wifi now… I think we are begining the great regression for all those except the most flush of customers. I mean beneficial customer facing modularity and segmentation roll out.
these are the lowest end – celeron replacements – not a workstation processor..
The previous generation was in $350 canadian dollar notebooks. The ARK pricing for these chips might as well be a placeholder.
Let me fix that:
(price based on the value offered. not actual prices!)
There is a N100 showing up on cpubenchmark.net. Maybe the system is an engineering sample and not working right, or maybe it’s miss reported. But the numbers don’t look that great compared to Jasper Lake.
I wish marketing didn’t confuse memory channels, memory width, and total bandwidth.
These units have a single dimm, which is 64 bits wide, but with DDR5 (or LPDDR5) are actually 2 32 bit channels. Which sounds like a downgrade form the n5105 and similar CPUs which take 2 dimms, until you realize that the DDR5 have a much higher clock speed. So it should actually do pretty well, especially with the core upgrades.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how the N100 compares with the N5105 for price and performance. If the price is about the same for a little better performance at a little lower power draw, then those 6 port 2.5gb firewalls could really benefit.
Though, I’m one of those hold-outs that really wishes there were an integrated switch chip with say 4x 2.5gb external switched ports, 2x external routed NIC-WAN/management ports, and 1x internal 2.5gb nic attaching to an internal 5th port on the switch for the routed interface. It looks like there are 5 port 2.5gig switches out there but an integrated solution would make a BIG difference.
ooh, looks like the N100, and family, firewalls are starting to come out.
That 6W CPU for about the same, or better, than the 5105 is very interesting. I don’t see any 6 port units yet, but the 2 and 4 port options are starting to show up.
Brian – we have these on order. N305’s seem to be a few weeks out still. N100 sooner. We will review them once they arrive.