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Gracemont Bulks Up in Performance

September 7, 2021

Author: Aakash Jani

Gracemont takes Intel’s family of “little” CPUs to a bold new performance level. By doubling the execution width and making numerous other changes, the latest design offers a 20% jump in per-clock performance (IPC) over its predecessor, Tremont. In just the four years since the Goldmont CPU debuted, Intel has amplified the IPC of its “Mont” family by 75%. What started as a tiny Atom is now a full-fledged PC CPU.

Relative to Tremont, Gracemont employs a deeper front end with changes to its branch predictor and instruction cache. The back end features a wider execution engine and AVX support, along with an upgrade to its memory subsystem to keep pace. Gracemont will first appear in the Alder Lake PC processor, which should reach customers by 4Q21. Like Tremont, it will probably also serve in networking products, Chromebooks, and other systems that require low cost and power.

Alder Lake employs a heterogeneous architecture that pairs Gracemont with the more powerful Golden Cove CPU. In addition to the hybrid architecture, Intel introduced new terms for its two x86 CPU families. Borrowing language from Apple and Arm, Intel now calls its flagship CPUs “performance cores,” led by the new Golden Cove, and it calls the smaller CPUs such as Gracemont “efficiency cores.”

We expect the new efficiency core to compete against custom and semicustom Arm cores in the low-power-laptop segment. For the past few generations, Arm has bested Intel’s low-power CPUs in power efficiency (performance per watt) and TDP. Although we don’t expect Gracemont to change the TDP conversation, we expect a sizable performance boost that will help Intel match up better against its Arm-based competitors.

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