Intel has officially unveiled its 4th generation Core processor family, codenamed Haswell, claiming a significant increase in battery life for mobile systems plus revamped graphics that will also deliver a better experience for desktop users.
Shipping to system vendors now, Intel's Haswell chips are available initially in quad-core versions targeting ultrabooks, hybrid tablets and all-in-one desktops, which Intel sees as the most likely growth areas in the PC market this year.
First detailed in depth at Intel's developer forum (IDF) last year, Haswell introduces a new microarchitecture onto its 22nm chip fabrication process, making it a "tock" in Intel's "tick-tock" development cycle.
Haswell's key improvements are in power efficiency and graphics. While a laptop based on the previous generation might have delivered six hours' battery life, the 4th generation will push this up to over 9 hours, Intel claims.
As well as microarchitecture changes to deliver more energy-efficient performance, Haswell introduced new instructions such as Advanced Vector Extensions 2 (AVX2) and cryptography and hashing functions. These will speed up high-performance computing (HPC) applications, video and games, Intel said.
Meanwhile, the new graphics functions will offer twice the performance of the previous generation. As revealed by Intel last month, there will be different grades of graphics performance in Haswell, with some chips having HD graphics 5000 while more premium versions feature the more capable Iris graphics 5100 or Iris Pro graphics 5200, which have more execution units for higher performance.
Some of the chips also feature embedded DRAM (eDRAM), shared between the CPU and GPU, which is aimed at boosting graphics performance.
On the mobile side, chips with part numbers ending in H and M target mobiles, with the H chips having Iris Pro graphics. Those ending in U and Y are system-on-a-chip (SoC) designs targeting ultrabooks, with the U parts featuring Iris graphics, while the Y parts offer the lowest power for hybrid tablet designs.
Intel's 2013 ultrabook platform based on Haswell specifies a touchscreen and Intel's Wireless Display (WiDi) technology as standard. These will also be slimmer than earlier models and have voice recognition and the ability to control the PC using voice as standard, the firm said.
Simon Lambden, user experience engineer for Intel EMEA said: "Ultrabook is a premium platform, so we mandate these criteria in order for systems to carry the ultrabook brand and logo."
Intel also sees hybrid tablets, or 2-in-1 devices that can convert from a slate device to a laptop, as a key segment for the 4th generation Core chips.
"Users might have a laptop and tablet at the moment, but if you give them the choice of having one device with both personalities, they like the idea of this," Lambden claimed.
However, Intel also sees life yet in desktop PCs, in the form of the all-in-one system, and this segment is being targeted by Core chips ending in K, S and T.
"The desktop isn't dead, it's just changed the way it looks," Lambden said. He added that Intel is also set to deliver a new version of its NUC (Next Unit of Computing) ultra-small footprint PC based on Haswell chips.
At launch the top mobile chip is the Core i7-4930MX, a 57W TDP part with a base clock of 3GHz priced at $1,096, while the Core i7-4950HQ, a 47W part with Iris Pro graphics is clocked at 2.4GHz and carries a price of $657.
The top desktop chip is the Core i7-4770K, with a base clock of 3.5GHz and priced at $339. There are also Core i5 versions for the desktop. Further SKUs are likely to be announced in the coming weeks and months.
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