Intel today announced the 4th-generation of its Core processor series. The quad core chips, previously code-named 'Haswell' offer better performance and significantly reduced power consumption, according to Intel (the company describes it as the biggest increase in battery life in Intel history). Intel has also signficantly revised the required spec laptop makers must hit in order to earn the 'Ultrabook' moniker. The 4th-generation Core processors will be available in PCs, laptops and tablets from June 4. (See also: Intel's Haswell gets massive graphics performance boost.)
You can read our first Intel Haswell PC review & 4th-gen Core processor benchmarks here.
'Post-PC world? We're just getting started'
Intel refutes the idea that we are living in a 'Post-PC world'. Chipzilla believes instead that the PC is becoming a more diverse, portable and consumer-friendly beast, and its processors are now better equipped than ever to meet that challenge. In a briefing Intel told PC Advisor that the distinct worlds of smartphones and desktop PCs are converging, and it is at that sweet spot that Intel's 'Haswell' chips are aimed. Intel believes the 4th-gen Core processors will be used to power Ultrabooks, tablets and convertible devices that offer the benefits of both. Indeed it is promoting the 4th-gen chips as being part of a move toward '2-in-1 computing'.
As part of the 4th-gen Core processor launch Intel has revised the minimum spec for Ultrabooks. In order to be able to wear the Ultrabook badge a laptop now has to be no thicker than 25mm, and has to offer both a touchscreen and voice control. Power consumption is also being closely controlled, with tough minimum benchmarks that Ultrabooks have to hit. They have to be able to stay on standby for more than seven days, for instance, and at idel for more than nine hours. And Intel wants Ultrabooks to be able to play HD video for six hours without recharging. Intel is actively promoting the idea of hybrid Ultrabooks that double as tablet and laptop, too.
Following this idea of versatility Intel also believes that the 4th-gen Core processors are perfectly designed for all-in-one PCs, especially those such as the Sony Tap 20 in which the screen can be detached and laid flat on lap or table. To this end, for the 4th generation of Core processors Intel has focussed on low power consumption and integrated graphics capability. This will include new low-voltage processors with a thermal design power (TDP) as low as 7 watts. This compares to to 17 watts for most 3rd-gen Ultrabook processors. It means in real-world situations 4th-gen processors could be drawing less than half the power do even the best Ultrabook laptops now. If PC makers use that feature wisely it could mean a big break through in battery life (although in the past many have simply taken the opportunity to build in cheaper batteries).
Intel also says that office productivity apps should run more than twice as fast with 4th-gen Core processors. See als: Post-PC world? We're just getting started
4th-gen Intel Core processors: the details
Intel is today launching four types of 'Mobile' processor, and three 'Desktop' chip families. The H-, M-, U- and Y-Series processors are aimed at what Intel describes as 'mobile' devices, which in this case refers to laptops and tablets. The K-Series are enthusiast processors intended to be overclocked for extreme performance, and the S- and T-Series are low-power processors aimed at the desktop. Look out for these model processors in PCs and laptops onsale from June 4th.
We saw the die map of a 4th-generation Intel Core processor, built on a 22nm process, with Tri-Gate 3D transistors. L3 cache is shared across all 4 cores and processor graphics, with 1.4bn transistors on a 177mm2 die. As part of Intel's drive toward portability, Intel has moved from a traditional two-chip platform to a single-chip BGA solution with the CPU and PCH (platform controller hub) integrated into a single package, 15W & 28W TDPs, 6W and below SDP (scenario design power). Intel claims this should boost battery life when playing HD video from around six hours to around nine hours. And the power savings are shared around. Intel claims, for instance, that when watching an HD video or even performing simple office tasks a 4th-gen Intel Core processor will have power benefits for the CPU, the display and elsewhere. Take such figures with a pinch of salt: real-world performance relies upon a large variety of factors. But expect 4th-gen Intel chips to offer significantly better battery life performance.
4th-gen core chips: graphics improvements
Key to much of this is that PC makers feel able to use Intel's integrated graphics, reducing the requirement for a discrete graphics card with all the power draw that entails. Intel says it has improved its already impressive onboard graphics with the addition of features such as faster Intel Quick Sync Video and faster JPEG & MPEG decode, OpenCL 1.2 Support and three-screen collage display. There is enhanced 4K x 2K support, says Intel, as well as double the bandwidth with Display Port 1.2. Intel has added Iris Pro graphics with integrated on-package EDRAM memory and API support for DX11.1, OpenCL 1.2, and OpenGL 4.0. It should, Intel says, add up to twice the graphics performance for 4th-gen Ultrabooks (as opposed to those with 3rd-gen processors).
So as well as the existing Intel HD graphics 4000, look for Intel Iris Pro graphics 5200, Intel Iris graphics 5100 and Intel HD graphics 5000, as well as Intel HD graphics 4600, 4400 and 4200.
Intel has also improved, it says, Intel WiDi. Wireless Display 4.1 now includes such features as low power panel self refresh, reduced latency and a touch-first interface. There's support for more USB devices and full resolution S3D, too. Intel says with the right vendor support WiDi 4.1 means users can touch and flick HD videos to TV, multitask as they beam content and interact with apps in real time. See also: What is an Ultrabook? and Intel lifts the veil on Haswell graphics.