Intel Rocket Lake-S gets GPU driver -- and CPU design was finalized two years ago

Posted on Monday, April 05 2021 @ 9:46 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
INTC logo
A couple of days ago, we roasted Intel because the firm launched its new Rocket Lake-S processor without a compatible graphics driver. The chip features the new Xe-based integrated graphics but Intel did not roll out a new driver. This has changed -- albeit with some caveats.

Rocket Lake-S gets an old graphics driver

WCCF Tech reports Intel has uploaded the graphics driver for the Rocket Lake-S series. This driver is dated March 3, 2021 and it appears it doesn't have new features or specific optimizations for the Xe-based IGP:
Well, Intel has finally released the graphics drivers for its Iris Xe GPUs featured on the Rocket Lake CPUs. The is 426 MB in size but the more interesting part is that the date it is listed for is 3rd March 2021. This suggests that while the support for Intel Rocket Lake Desktop CPUs is new, the driver itself isn't technically different than the ones already available for Iris Xe GPUs. Intel simply added support for Rocket Lake CPUs on its existing driver suite and called it a day & it does make sense considering all Iris Xe chips are essentially based on the same Xe-LP GPU architecture.

Rocket Lake-S was finalized two years ago

ExtremeTech picked up news from an ask-me-anything session from Intel that the Rocket Lake-S design was finalized in Q1 2019. Basically, the current model was made before AMD's Ryzen kicked into high gear.

Rocket Lake-S is basically a 10nm design that got backported to 14nm because Intel's 10nm node was a total mess. The chip giant backported the Sunny Cove cores from the 10nm Ice Lake, and not the more advanced Willow Cove from Tiger Lake, because the latter wasn't finalized yet when the decision was made to make Rocket Lake-S.

As the site points out, this offers some perspective into how chip cycles work. It took Intel roughly two years to build the floorplan and backport Sunny Cove.
This is how semiconductor manufacturing tends to work. AMD is currently shipping Zen 3, finalizing Zen 4, and working on Zen 5. Intel just launched Rocket Lake with Alder Lake coming later in 2021 and a 7nm successor reportedly intended for 2023. This means Intel and AMD are both picking design features and targets based on what they think the competitive situation will be 1-2 years later.

The AMA states that an eight-core die represented the largest die + UHD graphics that Intel could manufacture without clarifying if this is related to the design of the LGA1200 socket or some other product limitation. The years since Ryzen’s launch have, we think, illustrated factual differences in how AMD approaches product design versus Intel.
The next big launch from Intel will be Alder Lake, this 10nm design is expected before the end of this year.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

Loading Comments