Intel’s Haswell to Feature Secret Weapon: Integrated Voltage Regulator

Intel Designs Integrated VRM for Chips to Further Cut Power Consumption

by Anton Shilov
12/26/2012 | 10:59 PM

Intel Corp.’s next-generation code-named Haswell microprocessors will not only improve performance and feature some tricks to lower power consumption, but will also feature a secret weapon: integrated voltage regulator module (VRM). The latter will allow to improve granularity of power supply to central processing units and thus further cut power consumption without compromising performance. 

 

At present, voltage regulator modules and various power ICs are located on mainboards. In the recent years, to better regulate voltages of different blocks within central processing units, multi-phase CPU power supply circuitries were implemented. Such circuitries are rather costly and take up a lot of space on mainboards. But most importantly, granularity and performance of such VRMs is not as high as Intel wants.

In a bid to make its chips even more power efficient than they are today, Intel has developed a special programmable chip with 20 power cells, reports PC Watch web-site. Each power cells is a mini VR with analogue circuits rated for up to 25A electric current and supporting up to 16 phases. Potentially, one 20-cell chip enables 320 power phases per CPU, which allows extreme granularity of power supply. Intel will install the integrated voltage regulator (IVR) chip, which will be made using 22nm process technology onto the same substrate with Haswell microprocessors.

Integrated VRM will allow to independently and very precisely control power consumption of each core, graphics core, system agent as well as well as interconnection buses within Haswell chip. Such fine-grain regulation can decrease power consumption without compromising performance. For example, with Haswell it is possible to halt all CPU cores during video playback without halting ring-bus interconnections, which means that only graphics core will consume power and given the fact that the interconnection will continue to operate at full speed, video playback will be smooth.

Eventually, Intel plans to build in IVR into microprocessor itself, which will further improve granularity of power supply. This will not only be useful for code-named Broadwell chips for notebooks, but also for various system-on-chip solutions for smartphones and tablets. In the latter case this will significantly boost Intel’s competitive positions against various solutions based on ARM technology, which dominates the mobile electronics these days.

Intel did not comment on the news-story.