Intel reportedly developing a "Zen 5 killer" with next-gen Royal Core project [Update]

Intel Royal Core made by Jim Keller

Intel has been having a somewhat tough time ever since AMD's Zen came on to the scene. Team Blue is no longer the dominant player in the x86 space and it has been a somewhat equal fight with AMD mostly gaining the upper hand in nearly all of the markets except perhaps notebooks.

While the chief architects of Zen were Michael Clark and Suzanne Plummer, renowned engineer Jim Keller also had a huge role in its design philosophy. Since then, Keller has left AMD and is now working at Intel. And according to YouTuber Moore's Law Is Dead (MLID), "Jim Keller is building a Zen 5 killer" at Intel.

This Zen 5 killer is what Intel is allegedly working on under the leadership of Keller and the project is called "Royal Core". The Royal Core parts will reportedly make a full debut after 2024 in Nova Lake.

Intel Royal Core alleged details

AMD is expected to debut Zen 4 next year with Ryzen 7000 (Raphael) processors and Socket AM5 motherboards. So, it will likely be at least a couple of years before we see Zen 5 in action.

Not only Zen 5, but Royal Core allegedly hopes to out-compete the Arm and M1 threats that Intel is currently having to face. In fact, apparently, we wouldn't even have to wait till 2025 for that as Intel is already reportedly planning to take on M1 with its upcoming Arrow Lake design. Arrow Lake-P according to YouTuber AdoredTV will be a mobile CPU design with six P-cores, eight E-cores (6+8), and 320 EUs.

Intel has been dedicating large portions of its chips' die areas towards integrating more graphics in its mobile SKUs for a while now and the same is the case for Alder Lake architecture too which was announced yesterday. And it seems the practice will continue for Intel's future designs as well.

Intel Alder Lake core blocks layout

Other sources, like an ex-Redditor with the username "mooreslawisnotdead" say that Arrow Lake will be a valiant effort but won't be able to topple the M1 in power efficiency. In fact, this is the same poster who leaked these alleged next-gen product codenames first, although the Royal Core moniker is new.

While the user has since deleted his Reddit account for some reason after posting this, the information was saved by an AnandTech forum member.

  • Raptor Lake (Raptor Cove / Gracemont) Q3'22 / Q4'22 - 10% CPU perf boost and 8/16 configuration puts intel back on par but expect AMD/Apple to refresh their products as well.
  • Meteor Lake (Redwood Cove / Crestmont) Q2'23 - Intel's first true chiplet or tile based design. Different dies built on TSMC / Intel processes. More of a node shrink with single digit performance improvements. AMD will again extend lead with Zen 4+ / 5.
  • Arrow Lake (Lion Cove / Skymont) Q4'23 - Will feature an updated compute tile with 8/32 config for the high end enthusiast products. Might achieve parity with AMD offerings at the time but loses out to Apple in power efficiency.
  • Lunar Lake (Lion Cove / Skymont) Q4'24 - This is the product that will use TSMC 3nm as reported by Nikkei. Big performance jump expected and designed to achieve parity or beat AMD and Apple in both performance and power efficiency.
  • Nova Lake (Panther Cove [tentative]/ Darkmont) 2025 - This will mark the biggest architectural change in cpu architecture since the Core architecture is introduced in 2006. Intel is working to build an entirely new architecture from the ground up much like Ryzen with up to 50% cpu performance improvement from lunar lake.

While all this is unconfirmed news which is still at least a couple of years away if authentic, it will be interesting to see what Jim Keller manages to accomplish at Intel as the man has a near-perfect track record so far.

Source: MLID (YouTube) via Curmudgeon666 (AnandTech forum)

Update: The article was written under the misconception that Jim Keller was still working for Intel after he joined the firm in 2018. However, Keller had departed from the company last year in June.

Intel states it was due to personal reasons for which he left, but rumor has it that Keller wasn't very pleased with Intel's inability to go below the 10nm lithography quickly enough which would be essential to carry out his ambitious CPU plans.

Jim Keller had reportedly suggested to Intel's management that it outsource some of the chip production at that time which Intel had allegedly refused. Following this, Jim Keller is said to have left the company as a consequence of this disagreement. While this may simply be a rumor, it is interesting that Intel with its IDM 2.0 strategy has decided to move towards this outsourcing path recently. For example, its upcoming discrete gaming Arc GPUs will be built on TSMC's N6 process.

So although Keller isn't at Intel anymore, it is possible that the rumored Royal Core project could still become a real thing since Intel will be able to use a supposedly superior process node that Keller allegedly required. In fact, this has happened in the past too.

For instance, after joining AMD in 2012 to work on Zen, K12, and Project Skybridge, Keller left the company three years later in 2015; and the Zen-based CPUs didn't come around until first-gen Ryzen hit in 2017.

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