Today is the first day of summer and also the day when Intel lifts the embargo on publications about performance of the Haswell, the new generation of Intel CPUs. The whole lot of Haswell-based products will be announced officially in three days, but there can hardly be any changes in such a short time. Therefore we offer you our review of one particular model of the long-anticipated CPU right now.
It is long-anticipated indeed as we have had to wait for the Haswell longer than usual. According to Intel’s tick-tock strategy of releasing new CPU designs, there should be about a year between each tick and each tock. That tick-tock model is almost forgotten now, though, as it takes Intel longer and longer to upgrade its microarchitecture. This can be expected since Intel has no real opponents on the market of x86 CPUs. Its long-time rival AMD has left the market of high-performance CPUs, switching to inexpensive and niche products. And now Intel, while owning most of the x86 CPU market, has to deal with global problems instead such as the lowering popularity of the x86 architecture and x86-based solutions at large.
It means that Intel now has to prove its viability not as a developer and manufacturer of high-performance CPU designs but as a company that can transform its vast experience into the emerging classes of mobile devices which have been gaining in popularity at the expense of classic PCs. It is not AMD that Intel has to face now as its main opponent. It is the manufacturers of CPUs with ARM architecture, which have been following the latest market trends and are riding the wave now.
We dedicated a special review to studying the Haswell microarchitecture, noting that higher performance is not the Haswell’s main goal. On the contrary, the point of the new design is in lowering thermal and power requirements to make new CPUs appropriate not only for traditional PCs but also for compact, light and thin gadgets like ultrabooks, transformer notebooks and tablet PCs.
But even though the developer’s priorities have changed dramatically, we, PC enthusiasts, have not changed as much as to give up the classic PC, especially as newfangled gadgets can’t really match its versatility and performance. That’s why we want to start out our exploration of the fourth-generation Core processors with Haswell microarchitecture by looking at classic desktop CPUs first. Considering the current circumstances, we do not even expect higher performance, clock rates or overclocking potential. It is far more important to check out if the developer hasn’t introduced some changes into the CPU design that improve its energy efficiency but make it less suitable for desktop PCs compared to the time-tested Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge series.
There are quite a few things that raise our apprehensions. We’ve heard about a slowed-down L3 cache, about moving a significant part of the voltage regulator from the mainboard into the CPU so it is now less flexible in terms of settings, about the fundamentally new LGA1150 platform, and about compatibility issues with older PSUs. This list of potential downsides may get longer as we explore the Haswell more. Perhaps that’s the most interesting thing about our today’s review in which we will check out the Core i7-4770K, the senior desktop fourth-generation Core processor from Intel.