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Intel Encourages Adoption of ATX12VO Standard on Alder Lake-S Motherboards

The ATX12VO power standard is a new specification for desktop power supplies which boasts greatly increased efficiency over regular desktop power supplies. The new standard requires a compatible motherboard with a 10-pin power connector along with a compatible power supply which only features 12 V rails. The standard requires that any voltage conversion above or below 12 V must be performed directly on the motherboard which increases the complexity and cost for motherboard manufacturers. Intel is interested in promoting the standard with their upcoming 600-series motherboards for Alder Lake-S however most enthusiast boards are unlikely to feature the standard. The standard may find higher adoption with entry-level motherboards for system integrators and pre-built suppliers who need to meet strict government power efficiency regulations.

Intel "Alder Lake-S" Due for September 2021

2021 is shaping up to be a big year for Intel in the DIY desktop space, with the company preparing to launch not one, but two generations of desktop processors. Having announced them in January, the 11th Gen Core "Rocket Lake-S" desktop processors in the LGA1200 package, will release to market in March, with the company claiming a restoration in gaming performance leadership away from AMD's Ryzen 5000 series. Sources tell Uniko's Hardware that the company will announce its 12th Gen successor, the Core "Alder Lake-S" in September 2021.

"Alder Lake-S" will be Intel's first mainstream desktop processor built on its new 10 nm SuperFin silicon fabrication process. The chip is expected to be a "hybrid" processor, combining an equal number of larger "Golden Cove" cores, and smaller "Gracemont" cores, to offer significantly improved energy efficiency. Built in the new Socket LGA1700 package, "Alder Lake-S" is expected to feature more general-purpose SoC connectivity than LGA1200 chips. It will also herald new platform standards, such as DDR5 memory and possibly even mainstreaming of ATX12VO. The processor will launch alongside new Intel 600-series chipset. AMD's response is expected to be the "Zen 4" microarchitecture, a new silicon built on the 5 nm process, and the new AM5 socket that introduces DDR5 memory support.

ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming 4SR First ATX12VO Motherboard in the DIY-channel

The winds of change are beginning. The ATX12VO PC power-supply standard, earlier thought to be an OEM-mainstay with later introduction in the DIY retail channel, has already reached it. The ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming 4SR is the first board. Gone is the 24-pin ATX power connector, a smaller 5-pin pure-12 V input takes its place. A 6-pin PCIe connector takes in additional 12 V input. The 8-pin EPS connector (another pure-12 V input) is right where it should be, near the CPU VRM area. There are two small 4-pin connectors, which could be 5 V and 3.3 V outputs from the motherboard, to SATA power connectors.

The part of the PCB next to the memory area is bustling with a few more power phases than vDIMM. These convert 12 V to 5 V and 3.3 V (essentially what a PSU with DC-to-DC switching does). The rest of the board's I/O feature-set is fairly standard: four SATA ports, a single M.2-22110 slot, an M.2 E-Key slot holding an 802.11ac WLAN card, 6-channel audio, and 1 GbE wired networking driven by an Intel i219-V controller. The company didn't reveal pricing or availability.
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Pure 12V PSU Standard, Named ATX12VO, Debuts Later This Year

Back at CES, at the FSP booth, we spied an inconspicuous-looking PSU with a curious 10-pin connector in place of the 24-pin ATX. The FSP500-30AKB turned out to be the first public exhibit of a the pure 12-Volt PC power supply standard being pushed by Intel, which is called "ATX12VO," which abbreviates Advanced Technology eXtended 12-Volt Only. According to the specification, the PSU only puts out +12 V and 12 Vsb voltage domains, and does away with the 5 V, 5 Vsb, and 3.3 V domains. This greatly simplifies the design of PSUs, as PCs of today don't use too many power-hungry 5 V or 3.3 V devices (such as half-a-dozen mechanical hard drives). The PC will still need 5 V for interfaces such as USB, but VRM on the motherboard will be responsible for DC-to-DC switching of 12 V to those lower-voltage domains. It's also likely that the motherboard will now put out a handful SATA power connectors.

Intel could debut ATX12VO within 2020 via its next-generation desktop platform, which features a 10-pin connector instead of 24-pin. It remains to be seen if the company could help the transition from current PSUs to the new standard by having its motherboard partners include a 24-pin to 10-pin adapter of some sort. In addition to the 10-pin connector, ATX12VO PSUs will put out two other purely-12 V connector types: 8-pin/4+4 pin EPS and 6+2 pin PCIe power. The EPS connector powers the CPU VRM, while the PCIe connector powers add-on cards, such as graphics cards. 4-pin Molex connectors could also be put out, but those will only feature 12 V pins (the 5 V pins will be absent).
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