Intel has released new information on its more power-efficient next generation “Haswell” family of Core processors. Quad-core Core i7 Haswell CPUs will offer 15W TDP power consumption, down from 20W on similar Ivy Bridge processors, resulting in up to 9.1 hours of HD playback, while future tablet-ready dual-core parts could lower power consumption by up to 50 percent, to 7W TDP.
Intel released a slide deck on Haswell and its “4th Generation Core i7″ processors on June 1 in advance of its June 4 announcement at Computex in Taipei, Taiwan. The new information, which is limited to quad-core desktop- and laptop-destined Core i5 and i7 models, follows numerous leaked details in recent months.
Haswell roadmap; process revamp
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One big leak was a May 23 IDG report, in which Intel Architecture Group VP Rani Borkar told Agam Shah that some Haswell Core processors could reach as low as 7W TDP, down from a previous Ivy Bridge low of 10W TDP, and would be targeted at high-end tablets and detachable-screen convertibles. These 7W models would appear to be dual-core models that will follow the initial shipment of quad-core Haswell chips this summer. Some or all of them may sport Core i3, Pentium, or Celeron labels, although these brands are getting more fluid and difficult to predict. One recent report suggests that Intel’s upcoming Silvermont Atom processors could shed the Atom brand entirely (see farther below).
Haswell vs. ARM: comparable battery life, higher performance
Intel’s Borkar reportedly told IDG News that the upcoming 7W TDP models would offer similar battery life to processors used in ARM-based tablets, while offering faster performance. The new Intel slide presentation, meanwhile, suggests the potential for Haswell processors in 11.6-inch slates with 10-12mm thicknesses.
Even the quad-core Core i7 Haswell models offer impressive power management improvements, according to Intel’s slide deck benchmarks. An Ultrabook running a Haswell-based quad-core, Core i7 -4650U CPU will offer 15W TDP consumption, compared to 20W TDP on a similar Ivy Bridge i7-3667U, and will deliver up to 9.1 hours of HD playback compared to 6.0 hours, says Intel. Standby improvements are even greater, with claimed standby time of 10-13 days compared to 4.5 days.
Haswell microarchitecture diagram
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Since the Haswell architecture is fundamentally similar to Ivy Bridge, offering the same 22nm fabrication and Tri-Gate 3D technology, CPU performance improvement appears to be fairly modest, and some manufacturers may choose to maintain the same speeds while focusing entirely on improving battery life. A 14nm “Broadwell” family due next year will once again ramp up the performance specs in Intel’s “tick-tock” release schedule.
Intel touts Haswell’s enhanced graphics
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Most of the performance enhancements come with graphics, thanks to a new generation of Iris and Iris Pro GPUs, offered in five different models. The new GPUs are said to offer double the typical graphics performance in Ultrabooks, and deliver up to 75 percent faster graphics in some applications. Graphics performance is said to be further improved with the use of embedded DRAM, which lowers latency in CPU-to-GPU links.
Haswell’s power improvements, which Intel calls “the biggest increase in battery life in Intel history,” derive in part from the fact that unlike Ivy Bridge, Haswell was designed from the start as a 22nm processor, and is therefore more highly optimized. Haswell also offers an integrated power management unit that dynamically adjusts consumption in different cores, somewhat like the latest high-end ARM processors like the Snapdragon 800 and Exynos 5 Octa.
Haswell technical slides from IDF 2012
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In addition, Haswell processors feature consolidated voltage regulators, which also helps reduce device size, and provides faster on-chip interconnects. The greatly improved idle power consumption comes from a new “active idle” power state that lets the system continue to swap data on without fully powering the CPU and GPU.
Other new features are said to include three-screen “collage” displays, 4K x 2K support, and double the bandwidth over DisplayPort 1.2 connections. The Haswell processors will also support Intel WiDi 4.1, offering AirPlay-like wireless multimedia streaming to TVs and other devices.
All told, Intel announced details on 12 desktop processors and 10 mobile (laptop) processors, all of which are quad-core Core i7 models. Five are listed with pricing and are expected to ship in 2013: The top-of-the-line, MX-series 3GHz, 57W TDP i7-4930MX ($1,096) is followed by the MQ-series 2.8GHz, 47W i7-4900MQ ($568) and 2.7GHz, 47W i7-4800MQ ($378). HQ-series processors due this year, which integrate faster Iris Pro 5200 GPUs, include the 2.4GHz, 47W i7-4950HQ ($657) and the 2.3GHz, 47W i7-4850HQ ($468).
Silvermont may lose Atom branding
None of these initial quad-core Haswell processors are likely to appear in mobile devices, and there do not yet appear to be any models optimized for high-end embedded networking and industrial equipment — a market where Ivy Bridge Core processors play a major role. So for now, the upcoming line of Silvermont-based Atom processors remain the biggest focus for mobile and embedded observers. It will be interesting to see if Intel has any more details this week on the 22nm-fabricated, Tri-Gate 3D platform. In early May, Intel announced Silvermont with claims of up to 3x the peak performance of current Atoms or up to 5x the power efficiency.
One leaked tidbit that could become official this week is a move to retire the Atom brand when Silvermont-based chips arrive later this year. According to a June 1 CNET report, an Intel rep told the publication that the faster new Silvermont processors would be branded under Intel’s old Pentium and Celeron brands rather than Atom, which the story notes has had a reputation for being slow.
The CNET article reports that Intel reiterated that Silvermont would appear under the Pentium or Celeron brands in Android laptops and convertibles, as well as Windows 8.1 systems, later this year or early next year. The report adds, however, that more energy-efficient versions of Silvermont aimed at tablets and phones won’t be labeled Pentium or Celeron. This suggests the possibility Intel will come up with a new brand for Silvermont devices aimed more directly at the market currently dominated by ARM-based processors.
Meanwhile, on May 30, ZDNet reported a Silvermont analysis by Wells Fargo analyst David Wong that is bullish on Intel’s chances of making headway in the mobile market. Wong predicts that Intel will capture more than 10 percent of the smartphone market and 30 percent of the non-Apple tablet market by 2015. It is unclear whether Haswell processors are represented here, or if this is entirely from Silvermont. Wong also suggests that if Intel achieves these gains, Microsoft may rethink its Windows RT platform for running Windows on ARM processors.
Intel will release more details on its Haswell processors at Computex in Taipei on June 4. The chipmaker already lists a number of its Haswell processors on its 4th Generation Intel Core i7 page. Meanwhile, the new Intel slide deck may be found in this Engadget report, and a more detailed analysis may be found in this Ars Technica report, which notes that an Intel rep said Intel was considering Android tablets and laptops for its new Haswell chips.