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Update: Leaked Intel Roadmap Reveals New Batch of Haswell Chips
Faster hardware shouldn’t be this somber. Yet we can’t help but furrow our brow in concern over Intel’s fourth-generation Core i7 CPU, Haswell. Yes, in typical Intel fashion, it’s a tour de force of technical achievement and features that’s the envy of the free world. It’s also, by the way, quite fast.
How fast? *Spoiler alert* Let’s just say that the new Core i7-4770K easily unseats the previous midrange sweetheart, the Core i7-3770K, as the best all-around performer, and even gives the high-end hexa-core part a hard time.
So, why are we so sad? Maybe it’s the continual whispers of the PC’s impending doom—that despite the pure joy a powerful PC can bring the world, its days are numbered.
Or maybe it’s because it’s clear that, while Haswell is fast, it’s a part that is obviously designed primarily to benefit laptops, tablets, and other small-computing needs rather than desktops. Let’s just say, as happy as we are about where Haswell lands in performance, we’re still concerned about Intel’s commitment to performance desktop computing, and that doesn’t make us feel good.
The Haswell Lineup
One new Haswell includes the south bridge inside the package.
Haswell’s Mixed Bag
A new platform is just one of the features that might irk enthusiasts. The most noticeable change for any enthusiast is the introduction of a new socket. LGA1155 has carried us from Sandy Bridge through Ivy Bridge, but as Intel doesn’t like you to ever get too comfortable with a motherboard, it’s shedding that old LGA1155 for a new LGA1150 socket. The two are, of course, incompatible. Why? It’s not just to piss you off, but more likely due to the fact that Intel can’t integrate the new Haswell features in LGA1155. The new socket should come as no surprise to anyone who reads Maximum PC, as we’ve been reporting on Intel’s plan for Haswell for a while, but here it is officially: If you want the new CPU, you need a new motherboard. AMD /AM3+ fanboys can feel free to unleash a big Nelson Muntz–style “ha-ha!” in the faces of Intel fanboys.
You're going to need a new 1150-socket Mobo for Haswell
Got a Spare FIVR, Buddy?
We’ve long said that Intel’s CPUs are gravitational black holes sucking everything into them. Nehalem ate the memory controller. Lynnfield swallowed PCIe. Sandy Bridge gobbled up graphics. And Haswell has a new fully integrated voltage regulator, or FIVR, inside the package. By integrating the voltage regulator, Intel simplifies power inputs into the CPU but also takes a lot of the control out of the motherboard makers’ hands. The FIVR doesn’t eliminate all voltage regulation on the motherboard, as the power to the CPU must still come from somewhere, so you’ll still find boards with beefy caps and voltage regulation circuits.
By integrating the VR, though, Intel is able to regulate power to a much finer degree than has been possible on even the best motherboards. Voltage ripple is practically nil on the design, and the performance of the FIVR outstrips anything that can be done externally. The FIVR also technically lowers the cost of a motherboard, as some of the external voltage regulators are no longer needed.
The FIVR isn’t a free ride, though. It adds more heat to the CPU and raises the TDP of the 4770K to 84 watts compared to the 77 watts of its predecessor.
The bigger question for desktops users is, why? The hard truth is that we suspect the change was not done to benefit desktop PCs. It’s to benefit laptops, all-in-ones, and anything else that really needs precise control over power and voltage in a very thin package. In other words, it’s a move that’s all about mobile and small computing. The good news is that it doesn’t seem to hurt enthusiasts very much. Yes, you’ll need beefy cooling to run Haswell overclocked, but you always needed that.
Overclocking Give and Take
When Intel jumped from Lynnfield to Sandy Bridge chips, it left behind the ability to pump up the base clock to overclock a chip. Overclockers still got unlocked “K” CPUs, but even non-K parts could overclock by four bins through the multiplier on Z-series boards. With Haswell, that feature is now gone, so non-K parts are truly clock-blocked in every way possible.
The good news for enthusiasts is that Intel has added more knobs to K-chip overclocking. Borrowing from the Sandy Bridge-E chips, Haswell K chips will now offer additional CPU straps for overclocking. Rather than being limited to just 100MHz and a few megahertz above it, additional ratios of 125MHz, 160MHz, and 250MHz should be available to help overclock the CPU without overclocking PCIe and other clock-sensitive components.
Big Fat L4—Just Not for You
One of the most exciting developments in the Haswell parts list is the new Core i7-4770R. This one chip features a massive 128MB of embedded DRAM, or eDRAM, to ameliorate memory bandwidth issues in graphics. Don’t care about integrated graphics? You should, because the R part’s eDRAM also acts as a massive L4 cache, which, according to some developers, offers a pretty big boost in performance outside of graphics. The really bad news is that you can’t get it in anything other than a BGA chip today. After hearing the objections of the enthusiast tech press (see, we help you sometimes), Intel is looking at the option of offering a socketed R chip.
TSX for Only Some of Us
Much has been said about Intel’s transactional memory feature, or TSX, in Haswell. TSX essentially makes it easier for programmers to write multithreaded code by addressing the complexities of having to lock portions of an array of data. TSX lets the processor handle much of the grunt work. Now for the bad news: TSX is apparently only available on some Haswell chips. Intel wouldn’t say which chips had it and which didn’t, but a leaked chart on Tom’s Hardware indicates that the only two chips we care about—the two unlocked K parts—don’t have it.
And the Good News?
So, Haswell runs a bit hotter, takes some voltage control out of your hands, eliminates the non-K overclocks, doesn’t give enthusiasts access to the large L4 cache version, doesn’t have TSX in the K parts, and, well, requires a new motherboard, too. You’re probably wondering just where the hell the good news is for enthusiasts with Haswell.
Despite all our bitching, we will say that Intel has at least paid attention to the one metric that counts most: performance. Intel didn’t just take an Ivy Bridge die, erase the name, and pencil in Haswell. The company has added new instructions to Haswell, including AVX2 and FMA2, that will eventually benefit you. The company has also increased the execution ports and generally made a lot of nips and tucks in the name of performance. What this means is that, clock for clock, Haswell offers a noticeable performance boost over Ivy Bridge. The full skinny on Haswell’s performance follows, but let’s just say it again: It’s fast. The apparent lack of TSX, fat L4, and multiplier overclocking might give you a frowny face, but maybe the only people who should really have a frowny face are those who just bought into a full-boat LGA1155 system with a top-of-the-line Core i7-3770K chip.
Click the next page to read about Haswell's integrated graphics.