What are Intel Alder Lake CPUs and how do they benefit low-power embedded computing?

What is Alder Lake?

 The 12th Generation Intel® Core™ processor family codenamed Alder Lake, was released in late 2021 and it was the first major steppingstone for Intel’s new hybrid-core architecture. The processor represents a significant milestone for Intel’s CPU architecture. Characterized by its innovated hybrid architecture, Alder Lake processors combine high-performance cores with power –efficient cores all in the same chip. This groundbreaking approach aims to optimize performance and energy efficiency across a spectrum of workloads, catering to both demanding tasks and power conscious applications.  

Built on Intel’s advanced 10nm Enhanced SuperFin process technology, Alder Lake CPUs promise substantial improvements in performance, efficiency, and versatility. Supporting both DDR4/DDR5 memories, PCIe 5.0, and the LGA 1700 socket; Alder Lake processors are poised to deliver enhanced capabilities across a diverse range of computing devices from single boards computers (SBCs), laptops, desktops, and potentially even servers.  

What is a Hybrid-Core Architecture & Why is it Special?  

The hybrid core architecture in Intel Alder Lake processors combines two types of CPU cores all in the same chip: Performance cores (P-cores) and Efficiency cores (E-cores). The hybrid architecture dynamically manages the allocation of tasks between P-cores and E-cores based on workload demands and power efficiency considerations. This dynamic scaling ensures optimal performance and power efficiency across a wide range of usage scenarios, providing users with both not only a high compute performance but a better operating temperature, extended battery life, and etc. Additionally, Intel’s Alder Lake chip also collaborates with certain operating systems and software applications to optimize this hybrid architecture, further enhancing the overall performance system.  

P & E Cores:

Performance Cores (P-cores):  
  • Designed for high-performance computing tasks, such as gaming, video editing, and heavy multitasking. 
  • Optimized for single-threaded performance and deliver high clock speeds and strong IPC (Instructions Per Cycle) performance. 
  • Feature larger caches and more execution units compared to efficiency cores. 
  • Cores are activated when the system requires maximum performance, ensuring smooth execution of demanding applications and tasks. 
Efficiency Cores (E-cores): 
  • Focused on energy efficiency and are well-suited for light tasks, background processes, and idle states. 
  • Operates at lower frequencies and consumes significantly less power compared to performance cores, making them ideal for extending battery life in mobile devices and reducing power consumption in desktops. 
  • Designed to handle background tasks, such as email synchronization, web browsing, and system maintenance, all at minimum power consumption. 
  • Cores are activated during light workloads or idle periods, allowing the system to conserve energy without sacrificing responsiveness. 

What is Alder Lake-N & Why Efficiency Cores?

Historically, Intel used the ”N" suffix to denote low-power or ultra-low-power processors designed for notebooks or mobile form factors. These processors typically prioritize energy efficiency while providing adequate performance for computing tasks. However, if the reason why the Alder Lake CPUs are unique is because of their hybrid architecture; then why does Intel offer an “-N” line with only efficient cores?  

To answer this question, we need to take a closer look at the efficiency core itself. First thing we need to know is that the efficiency core is sort of a performance core as well with 6MB of Smart Cache memory. Formerly named “Grace Mont,” the Intel efficiency core is fundamentally a fourth-generation Atom chip, just without the hyperthreading capability (a feature that allows each physical core to function as two virtual cores) that a performance core would offer. Overall, E cores still delivers great performance with maximum efficiency; and according to Intel “It is the world’s most efficient X86 core, and still delivers more instructions per clock than Intel’s most prolific architecture to date.” That is why Intel can confidently have a –N line in the Alder Lake family, for specific use cases that prioritize efficiency and power usage and can still deliver solid performance.   

Image Source: Intel

Why N97? (N97 vs Pentium 7505)

To truly understand the power of the Alder Lake e core use, we can take a deeper look at the Intel N97 (Alder Lake - N) and compare it with the 11th Gen Intel Pentium 7505 (Tiger Lake –U). This comparison will help us analyze the true ability of the E-core as both processors have a lot in common but still have a lot of different strengths and weaknesses. 


The Intel Pentium 7505 is 11th Gen Tiger Lake –U processor, it's known to have noteworthy characteristics such as supporting 64GB memory, having a maximum speed of 3.5 GHz, and still holding a decent TDP of 15W. On paper, majority of the Pentium 7505 specs does look better than the N97, however the N97 is superior.  

Performance Difference 

Alder Lake (N97) Tiger Lake (Pentium 7505)
CPU Specifications
Lithography 10 nm SuperFIn 10 nm
Cores 4 2
Processor Base Frequency 2.00 GHz 2.00 GHz
Burst Frequency 3.40 GHz 3.50 GHz
L2 Cache Memory 4.00 MB -
L3 Cache Memory 6.00 MB 4.00 MB
TDP 12W 15W
Memory Specifications:
Max Memory Size 16GB 64GB
Memory Type DDR5-4800 LPDDR4-3733
Graphic Specifications
GPU Frequency 1.20 GHz 0.30 GHz
Max GPU Memory 8GB 32GB
Maximum Displays 3 4

From the data above we can note that the 7505 does have a faster frequency, has hyperthreading, and does support a bigger memory size. The N97 however, does still hold a better performance as it supports a newer memory type (DDR5) and has a lower power consumption. These two capabilities are vital for why the N97 is a superior processor. To add on to why it is truly a “smarter” CPU is how it optimizes for low power consumption while handling background tasks and workloads efficiently. Compared to older cores such as the Skylake, the N97 offers:  

  • Increased instructions per clock (IPC): Meaning the processor can execute more instructions within the same clock cycle, leading to improved performance per watt.  
  • Improved branch prediction: The processor can better predict which code paths are likely to be taken, reducing wasted cycles and improving performance. 
  • Enhanced vector instructions: These instructions can process multiple data elements simultaneously, accelerating tasks like image and video processing. 

The overall benchmark score of both processors is on par. Yet there are a lot of factors to keep in mind before concluding that both processors have the same performance. The N97 is significantly smarter in terms of workload management, supports faster memory (DDR5), has a lower TDP, and lastly its 34% cheaper than the 7505 (Intel). Looking at the overall use cases for these processors which are specific applications that have thermal and budget constraints, the N97 is far more superior 

Introducing the Intel i3-N305 

The Intel Core i3 – N305 is another processor from the 12th Gen Alder Lake – N family. This processor still holds the unique Alder Lake – N attributes such as low power consumption and efficiency cores, but it does so while still delivering Core i3 performance.  

Alder Lake (i3-N305) Alder Lake (N97)
CPU Specifications
Lithography Intel 7nm 10 nm SuperFIn
Cores 8 4
Processor Base Frequency 1.80GHz 2.00 GHz
Burst Frequency 3.80 GHz 3.40 GHz
L2 Cache Memory 8.00 MB 4.00 MB
L3 Cache Memory 6.00 MB 6.00 MB
TDP 15W 12W
Memory Specifications:
Max Memory Size 16GB 16GB
Memory Type DDR5-4800 DDR5-4800
Memory Bandwidth 76.8 GB/s 38.4 GB/s

 The Core i3-N305 doubles the efficient core count compared to the N97 and to its predecessor, the N300. The i3-N305 utilizes 8 Alder Lake-N efficient cores, designed for low power consumption while handling background tasks and workload efficiently. The processor prioritizes efficiency over raw power and offers higher IPC (instructions per clock) and improved branch prediction compared to older i3 architectures, maximizing performance per watt. 

Strengths of the i3-N305

  • 8 Efficient Cores (Alder Lake-N): It doubles the core count, leading to significant performance improvements in workloads. 
  • Higher Burst Frequency (3.80 GHz): This contributes to better responsiveness and faster task completion. 
  • Improved Intel 7nm Process: Similar to the N97, it offers increased transistor density and lower power consumption. 
  • Supports DDR5 Memory: Depending on the configuration, it provides more memory bandwidth for various tasks compared to the N97. 
  • Fanless Designs: The low power consumption allows for fanless options making it reliable for rugged designs for industrial environments.  

Low Power Consumption 

Lastly to truly understand the use case of the Alder Lake –N processors such as the N97, let's focus on its biggest feature; its low power consumption. The low power consumption of the Intel N97 is crucial and important for several key reasons, especially when considering its intended use:   

  1. Enabling Thin and Light Hardware Design: Low power consumption allows the N97 to run cooler, eliminating the need for bulky cooling fans in many cases. This enables the creation of sleek, thin, and lightweight devices with improved portability and ruggedness. 
  2. Extended Battery Life: Reduced power consumption directly translates to longer battery life. This is crucial for users who prioritize mobility and need their devices to last longer. 
  3. Fanless Designs: For devices prioritizing silent operation and ruggedness, the N97's low power consumption facilitates fanless designs. This eliminates the need for fans inside the unit, allowing the unit to be more rugged for industrial environments. 
  4. Improved Thermal Management: Lower power generation means less heat to dissipate, simplifying thermal management within the device chassis. This leads to improved reliability and potentially longer lifespan for the device.  

Therefore, the N97's low power consumption isn't just a technical detail, it's a fundamental design principle that enables its core functionalities and caters for smart efficient performance.  



The latest CT-DAL01 is a compact 3.5’’ Single Board Computer (SBC) powered by the cutting-edge technology of Intel’s 12th Gen Alder Lake-N processors. This advanced board capitalizes on Intel’s innovative architecture, using the 12th Gen N97 and Core i3-N305. This miniature industrial SBC is compatible with M.2 keys and vital DDR5 for rigorous demands of AI tasks at the edge. Combining both Intel and Premio’s industry leadership, the CT-DAl01 implements both computing performance, efficiency, and durability to the rugged edge.  

  • DDR5 4800MHz SO-DIMM slot (262-pin) 
  • High-speed Diverse IoT-specific I/Os 
  • Industrial-Grade Durability  
  • M.2 Keys: B-Key & E-Key 
  • Triple Independent Display Support (DP, HDMI, eDP, & LVDS)  

Discover CT-DAL01>>


Intel® Processor N97 (https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/233090/intel-processor-n97-6m-cache-up-to-3-60-ghz.html) 

Intel® Core™ i3-N305 Processor 

Intel® Pentium® Gold 7505 Processor 
(https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/products/sku/208667/intel-pentium-gold-7505-processor-4m-cache-up-to-3-50-ghz-with-ipu/specifications.html ) 

12th Gen Intel Core Processor for IoT Announced 
(https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/newsroom/news/intels-1st-performance-hybrid-edge-architecture.html#gs.59x0fc ) 

Performance Hybrid Architecture (https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/developer/articles/technical/hybrid-architecture.html 

How Intel® Core™ Processors Work