The on-and-off saga of 12th Gen AVX-512 support appears to be off for good this time. According to Tom’s Hardware, an Intel spokesperson said: “Although AVX-512 was not fuse-disabled on certain early Alder Lake desktop products, Intel plans to fuse off AVX-512 on Alder Lake products going forward.”
When Intel launched its 12th Gen range back in November, we were told that AVX-512 wasn’t enabled. Most of the tech press accepted that. Intel said it wasn’t enabled due to the inclusion of two different architectures. The E cores didn’t support it, even if the P cores did.
Motherboard manufacturers used this bit of knowledge to cheekily allow users to enable AVX-512 after disabling the E cores. Intel obviously didn’t like that and so it issued new BIOS microcode to close off this loophole. However, that wasn’t the end of it, as MSI released a BIOS that got around the block. That leads us to Intel’s decision to fuse off AVX-512 in silicon.
It’s the nuclear option, and it means no more workarounds to enable AVX-512 support. You’ll still have the option if you’re using an earlier batch 12th Gen CPU and don’t update your BIOS, but in a month or two or three from now, all 12th Gen stock will have AVX-512 blocked off completely.
AVX-512 instructions aren’t really relevant to gamers but in certain applications, it can result in dramatic performance gains. Some, like Linux creator Linus Torvalds, hate it. Its use leads to excessive power consumption and heat generation, and perhaps Intel decided that the PR hit from nuclear reactor memes wasn’t worth the trouble anymore. But that might not be the end of AVX-512 for consumer CPUs. There are rumours that AMD will include it on its upcoming Zen 4 CPUs. That would be a twist.
According to a motherboard manufacturer we spoke with, Intel’s decision to remove the feature was made late in the design stage. That upset some in the industry as motherboards were designed with steep AVX-512 power requirements in mind. That doesn’t matter with premium boards but it adds expense to lower tier models which are already more expensive due to various supply chain issues.
AVX-512 support isn’t the only thing Intel is unhappy with. There’s also non-K overclocking, though the feature is so far limited to expensive motherboards that are unlikely to be paired with cheap CPUs in meaningful numbers. If a vendor were to release a cheaper B660 DDR4 motherboard that could do it, it would make me and a lot of gamers very happy, but Intel would likely be stirred into action again.