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Intel announces quad-core Haswell Core i7 processors

Modest CPU improvements make way for big GPU changes
Sat Jun 01 2013, 15:00
Intel Haswell 4th generation Core processor

CHIPMAKER Intel has lifted the lid on its Haswell processors with quad-core parts for laptops and desktops.

Intel's Haswell chips will try to take up where Microsoft's Windows 8 failed to invigorate the PC and laptop market. The firm announced a slew of quad-core desktop and laptop chips, with the Core i7-4770K heading the desktop line and the Core i7-4930MX topping off the firm's laptop range, the former of which will require Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge owners to undergo a motherboard upgrade, as the chip uses the new LGA-1150 socket.

Intel has made relatively modest microarchitecture improvements with Haswell, certainly when compared to Sandy Bridge, with the firm even pointing out that there is "no change in key pipelines". However Intel did say that it has worked on improving branch prediction - a vital aspect to the efficient use of pipelines - doubled the cache bandwidth, lowered latencies for virtualisation and increased the size of the out-of-order instruction window.

However given Intel's decision to hold two separate press conferences on the Haswell chips' GPU, it is safe to say that the firm has put most of its effort into trying to drag its GPU out of the dark ages and compete with the on-die GPU that AMD is shipping to OEMs in its Trinity and soon to be revealed Richland accelerated processing units (APUs). Intel has even gone to the trouble of adding on-package DRAM for its highest GT3e graphics core, which will be branded as Iris Pro, and talked up OpenCL support, something that will be music to AMD's ears.

Intel's Core i7-4770K is an unlocked quad-core processor that has a base clock speed of 3.5GHz that can boost up to 3.9GHz. The firm has slapped on 8MB of Level 3 cache but perhaps a little disappointingly stuck with DDR3 1,600MHz memory support.

Curiously Intel hasn't given its Core i7-4770K its GT3e graphics core, instead the 84W TDP part has the lesser Intel HD Graphics 4600 core. Perhaps the firm figured that those who will shell out for the chip, which is priced at $339, are unlikely to make use of the integrated graphics core, no matter what Intel brand it as. Instead Intel has stuck its GT3e GPU on the Core i7-4770R chip, which is clocked at a more modest 3.2GHz but can also boost to 3.9GHz and has a 65W TDP.

On the laptop side, Intel has a slew of quad-core Core i7 and Core i5 processors, however none of these parts will end up in any sleek and stylish laptops that the firm likes to promote, as the quad-core parts have TDPs of 37W or 47W, or for the range topping Core i7-4930MX, 57W.

Intel's Core i7-4930MX might have a 57W TDP but the chip could be seen as a rival for the desktop Core i7-4770K. The firm runs the chip at a base frequency of 3GHz, with a maximum boost on all four cores up to 3.7GHz with access to 8MB of Level 3 cache, though once again the firm has opted against the GT3e graphics core instead going for the HD Graphics 4600 core.

Although Intel's Core i7-4930MX is a beast of a chip, one can only expect that it will end up in ultra high specification laptops that are intended for mobile workstations or the most enthusiastic of gamers. Intel prices the chip in 1,000 unit quantities at an eye watering $1,096, so it is fair to say that complete systems will cost upwards of $2,500, given that the chip will almost certainly be paired with a high-end discrete GPU.

Intel's Haswell update at the high-end will further cement the firm's position ahead of AMD's chips, primarily because AMD has all but given up competing against Intel's Core i7 parts. What Haswell will allow Intel to do on the desktop is push the performance that is available in all-in-one PC systems, a category that was pioneered by Apple and its iMac.

As for laptops, Intel's quad-core chips are unlikely to do much with 37W-plus TDPs that are unlikely to benefit the firm's own ultrabook marketing push. However Intel will be launching lower power dual-core Haswell chips very shortly that should help system builders create laptop machines that will run longer on battery power and will have better performance to boot. µ


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