Intel officially introduced its latest Core microprocessor technology on Saturday. Code-named "Haswell," the new CPUs address the PC industry's need for higher-performing parts that consume even lower amounts of power.
But the real question is, Will anyone want one?
While this may be the fourth generation of Intel's Core technology, it's the first to enter what many analysts and pundits are calling the post-PC era. Today's consumers want smaller, thinner, and more portable computing devices, and, to an increasing degree, smartphones and tablets can suffice for many traditional PC tasks--like reading email, browsing web pages, and watching video.
But there are still too many tasks that tablets and smartphones can't handle. And this is where Intel's fourth-gen Core processors might find a receptive audience. Intel says the new Core CPUs deliver more horsepower than their predecessors, but also consume less power in the service of longer battery life and lower cooling requirements.
The upshot? Tomorrow's mobile PCs might be so thin and light, and last so long on a single charge, and offers so much more utility than Android and iOS devices, you might just buy a Windows notebook before reaching for that phone or tablet.
Inside the line-up
Intel is branding Haswell parts using the same three tiers it's used before: Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7. Intel has also introduced new desktop and mobile core-logic chipsets, dubbed Z87 and Q87, respectively. To evaluate how well Intel delivered on its promises, we built out and benchmarked a desktop machine based on Intel's brand-new Intel Core i7-4770K. We then compared its performance to Intel's third-generation Core products (codenamed Ivy Bridge) and AMD's best desktop processor, the A10-5800K. We also evaluated two new desktop motherboards that use Intel's Z87 chipset.
Of the major OEMs, HP has announced a few new models that will feature Haswell CPUs, but hasn't revealed which chips those will be. Acer, Dell, Lenovo, and Toshiba, meanwhile, haven't revealed anything, though we expect that will change next week as the giant Computex tradeshow gets underway in China.
Because the big-boy manufacturers aren't playing ball, the first retail systems to arrive in the PCWorld Lab came from more nimble boutique manufacturers, including desktop models from Digital Storm, Micro Express, and Origin; and a notebook from CyberPower.
But before we get into benchmark numbers, let's first examine Intel's overall strategy and then dive into the details of the Haswell microarchitecture.
Intel's "tick-tock" strategy
Intel describes its product development model as "tick-tock." A "tick" occurs every couple of years when the company implements a new manufacturing process that enables it to pack more transistors into the same silicon real estate. A "tock" is the alternate cycle--when Intel introduces an entirely new microarchitecture.
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