Haswell — Intel's fourth generation of the incredibly successful Core CPU — is here. As vendors begin rolling out hardware to keep up with one another in the renewed specs and performance race, that age-old game that inevitably follows is about to start again. Will users buy equipment featuring the new CPUs? Will deals on third-generation Core equipment be enticing? And what's really in it for business users, anyway?
Let's dive into what Haswell means for potential business customers.
New architecture, faster performance. Haswell is available for both laptop and desktop computers, with a wide variety of clock rates, L3 cache sizes, and power consumption levels supported. Discussing all the ins and outs of how the 4th generation Core CPU architecture is different from the 3rd generation Core CPU architecture is delving a bit heavily into the weeds, but the highlights are as follows. Haswell is smaller, which means laptops will be able to be constructed in lighter, thinner packages. The CPU will have up to four cores, currently an option only on Intel's highest-end (and most expensive) CPUs on the market today.
That said, PC World benchmarks on desktops using the new Haswell Core i7 haven't exactly showed the new chip demolishing its predecessor. A high-end Haswell showed just a 5 percent improvement over a high-end 3rd generation Core i7 system on our standard test battery, and the figures showed a 15 percent improvement when compared to a more common 3rd generation Core i5 computer. These numbers alone aren't remotely likely to convince any business buyer to upgrade, unless the company is still operating very old equipment.
However, there are other issues to consider...
Power savings all around. Haswell's architectural changes are heavily designed — as have most of Intel's recent CPU upgrades — to seriously reduce power consumption. For desktops, this means lower overall electricity bills, but for laptops this is obviously much more important, as battery life will be directly impacted by the changes. Intel says laptops using Haswell's new voltage regulation technology will achieve 50 percent more battery life , but real-world test results aren't likely to bear that out, especially as laptop LCDs get brighter, pack in more pixels (requiring a higher GPU load to fill), and run more graphically-heavy applications. Still, any power savings is still power savings, but the real impact of the new Haswell architecture on battery life will remain to be seen.
Will enhanced graphics matter? Consumers are excited about upgrades to the integrated GPU that comes with the Haswell processors. "Integrated graphics" have long been a death sentence for would-be gamers and video encoding mavens, sending them scrambling for a higher-end (yet expensive and power-hungry) discrete graphic card. But don't get too excited yet. Intel has so far released only one desktop CPU with the new GPU — called Intel Iris — included. (Performance on graphics benchmarks running Iris is about double that of the previous generation.)
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