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Intel releases faster, more efficient Core CPUs in renewed bid for mobile market

Michael Brown | June 3, 2013
Intel finally takes the wraps off its 4th-generation Core processors. But can these chips stop the PC industry's bleeding?

Intel's Sandy Bridge microarchitecture, introduced in early 2011, was a "tock" built using a 32nm manufacturing process. The Ivy Bridge series, which arrived in April 2012, marked a "tick" as Intel moved from a 32nm manufacturing process to a 22nm process. Haswell chips will be built using this same technology until the next "tick," when Intel perfects its 14nm manufacturing process. The new CPUs based on that technology will be dubbed Broadwell.

Intel will continue to ship earlier generations of its CPUs, and you might be surprised to learn that some of those earlier chips are considerably more powerful than Haswell. The Haswell parts Intel has announced to date have up to four cores, with hyperthreading support. Hyperthreading is an Intel technology that allows the PC's operating system to address one virtual core for each one of the CPU's physical cores.

Intel's Core i7-3930K, -3960X, and -3970X CPUs--desktop CPUs based on the Sandy Bridge-E microarchitecture--are all hexacore parts that support hyperthreading. An operating system running on these CPUs can address a total of 12 cores (six physical and six virtual). Intel designates its absolute fastest CPUs as Extreme Edition CPUs, but the company has not indicated whether it will build Extreme Edition Haswell chips.

Haswell's Architectural Changes
Intel has introduced four series of mobile processors and four series of desktop processors. The entire family features an integrated voltage regulator that will significantly reduce power consumption while simultaneously eliminating as many as seven other integrated circuits from the motherboard. Intel says this feature will give laptops 50 percent more battery life.

Intel has traditionally used the term TDP (thermal design power) to specify how much electrical power a computer must be able to dissipate in a worst-case scenario--namely, while the CPU is operating at its maximum speed for a sustained period. The company is now introducing a new specification, SDP (scenario design power), that indicates how much power a computer must be able to dissipate while being used for media consumption and "light creation." Intel will use the SDP spec for CPUs powering tablets and notebooks with detachable displays (Intel describes these as "behind the glass" devices).

Mobile Haswell processors with TDPs of 15 and 28 watts (or SDPs of six watts or less) feature a Platform Controller Hub (PCH) integrated into the same package. The PCH, more commonly known as the southbridge, handles the computer's input/output functions, such as USB and audio. Integrating the southbridge into the CPU package reduces the size of the motherboard, allowing for smaller and thinner notebook designs that consume less power. These same parts will be capable of operating at a very low-power state that Intel has dubbed SOix. A notebook in this idle state will consume almost no power, but will wake up to a fully active state within a few hundred milliseconds.


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