Intel Sets The Bar At 10 Watts, Haswell Details Leak Ahead of IDF

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News Posted: Sun, Sep 9 2012 6:58 PM

Ahead of this week's IDF, Intel's annual Developer's Forum, the company let an interesting number slip through the cracks: 10W. With all of the leaks we've seen so far, along with information Intel itself has revealed, it's clear that the company has been focusing like never before on power efficiency with its Haswell microarchitecture. "10W" highlights that well. As Intel's TDP ratings include the GPU, that number becomes all the more impressive.

Whereas Ivy Bridge was an evolutionary update to Sandy Bridge, Haswell has been built from the ground-up, as part of Intel's "Tock" phase. The ultimate goal? To take full advantage of both the 22nm process and 3D "tri-gate" transistors.

Haswell will launch in both a two-chip and one-chip design, with the 10W part - likely a dual-core - to fall into the latter category. Like Intel's Atom chips, this one-chip design will result in an SoC (system on a chip), where all the other interfaces regularly found in the motherboard's chipset will instead be integrated into the CPU itself. This cuts down significantly on space and paves the way for Intel's plan of breaking into the tablet market.

It's hard to ignore the battery-life potential with Haswell as well -- it's been said that with proper designs, mobile battery-life could reach up to 24 hours. While performance at 10W isn't going to match current Ivy Bridge offerings, these parts should offer major performance boosts compared to competitor SoCs (and Intel's own Atom).

As someone who follows processor developments with a keen eye, I have to say that Haswell is shaping up to be one of the biggest launches ever for Intel, and it's certainly one of the most important. It's no secret that Intel wants a piece of the tablet and smartphone pie, but what it wants even more is for its competitors to not break into the areas where they currently dominate. ARM has its sights on higher-performance mobile (and desktop) processors, so with Haswell, Intel must make sure that anyone buying an ultra-light notebook or some other mobile device wants "Intel Inside".

Power efficiency improvements are only the beginning of what Haswell is set to bring to the table, however. While clock-for-clock improvements on "regular" Haswell parts are said to be about 10% faster than Ivy Bridge, GPU performance is said to be at least double. Part of this boost can be attributed to the chips new L4 cache -- a cache dedicated to increasing the coherency between the CPU and GPU, which should be a boon to gaming and GPGPU performance. Add to this DirectX 11.1 and OpenGL 3.2 support, and we may finally be entering the era where sub-$100 graphics cards are, ahem, pointless.

Other key features Haswell will introduce includes support for some new instructions, including AVX2, Transactional Synchronization extensions, an LGA1150 socket (rumored to be compatible with LGA1155/1156 CPU coolers) and initial support for DDR4 (with Haswell-EX).

Craving more Haswell information? It's assured that Intel will be putting a lot of focus on its upcoming microarchitecture at IDF, so check back here at Hot Hardware often as we bring you live coverage throughout the week.

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