Intel Talks Haswell-E, Broadwell, Devilís Canyon & More
With the PC market evolving at a rapid pace, Intel has decided to ďenhanceĒ their roadmap by adding in a number of new products and refine associated timelines. While some of the information below will come as a surprise to the folks who were writing off Intelís desktop aspirations, thereís a lot to be excited about. Details are still slim and weíre limited in what we can write about, letís just say that 2014 is shaping up to be an exciting year, regardless of your budget
Contrary to predictions foreseeing doom and gloom for the desktop market, it has actually grown by 7% according to Intelís own figures. Much of that success has been carried on the shoulders of the gamers and power users but there has also been a shift towards simple desk-bound systems as well. It seems like users are looking to tablets and other ultra-portable devices for their mobile needs while ďcoming backĒ into the inexpensive desktop space to suit their content creation and gaming requirements. As a result, the notebook and so-called ďUltrabookĒ segments havenít seem much growth.
While we already know the effect of this shift upon Intelís mobile roadmap, thereís also been a trickle-down effect upon desktop users. Theyíre obviously going to start playing an expanded role in the near future but how Intel planned on catering to them remained a mystery. Hence why many of the announcements at todayís Game Developer's Conference are so important.
Currently the desktop market is broken down into four main categories: Enthusiasts, Performance, Mainstream and Entry. All of these are serviced in some way by Intel. For example, enthusiasts who want the best regardless of cost receive the bleeding-edge parts like Ivy Bridge-E while anyone looking for an excellent price / performance ratio will likely turn towards the Haswell K-series processors in the Performance segment. The Entry and Mainstream categories are largely serviced by dual core and lower end quad core Haswell and carryover Ivy Bridge-based Pentium and Celeron CPUs.
So why is this revisionist history rundown so critical to our article? Intel has pulled an ace out of their sleeves by talking about updates for every one of those segments. Itís like the floodgates opened with concrete announcements for Haswell-E, Devilís Canyon, a 20th Anniversary Edition Pentium CPU and Broadwell. Granted, much of what follows is just confirmation of rumors but it represents a relatively large update to Intelís roadmaps.
Haswell-E & X99
The progression of Extreme Edition processors may nmatch the comparatively quick evolutionary pace set by Intelís lower-end SKUs but things are about to pick up. About a year after the introduction of Ivy Bridge-E we will see the launch of fourth generation Extreme processors into the lineup. That means the so-called ďHaswell-EĒ SKUs should be available in the second half of 2014 and will be headlined by an 8-core, 16-thread monster CPU. Considering Intelís struggles with taming thermals on lower end processors based on 22nm 3D Tri-Gate transistor technology, it will be interesting to see how these new CPUs will handle their heat loads. More on that later.
Haswell-E will be available alongside (and only compatible with) Intelís upcoming X99 platform. Among other features, X99 motherboards will be the first to support DDR4 memory modules and will come with a host of other enhancements. Just donít expect PCI-E 4.0 to be rolled out just yet since form factor specifications for its implementation will only be released sometime in 2015.
Hopefully the move to X99 will alleviate much of the justifiable critique leveled at IVB-E since that Extreme Edition series is tied at the hip to X79, a completely outdated platform by todayís standards. We'll see more information about Haswell-E in the coming months.
Broadwell Gets Iris Pro
Back when Intel first announced Broadwell, there were numerous rumors floating around that claimed Intelís 5th generation Core architecture would only be available in a BGA form factor. This move away from socketed motherboards to a more integrated approach would have effectively killed off inexpensive upgrades and caused a great deal of headaches for motherboard manufacturers.
Intel has now confirmed that Broadwell will be available in a standardized socket design. Broadwell processors will be based off of a new 14nm manufacturing process, in keeping with Intelís tick / tock methodology and will feature compatibility with the upcoming 9-series boards being released in the not so distant future.
Another interesting morsel that was discussed is the integration of Iris Pro graphics into the socketed desktop market. On current generation Haswell processors, Iris Pro GT3e is limited to embedded and mobile solutions but with Broadwell this powerful graphics subsystem will be rolled into unlocked desktop SKUs as well.
The Devil's In the Details; Devilís Canyon Revealed
In what may be the most controversial item in Intelís GDC announcements, it looks like there will be an additional update coming for Haswell processors.
Before we get too far into what this so-called ďDevilís CanyonĒ revision entails, some background is necessary. Since their inception, 22nm Tri-Gate based processors have exhibited some pretty extreme temperatures. The densely packed transistors played a large roll but some blame was placed upon the internal thermal interface material (TIM) which is tasked with transferring the dieís heat to an internal heatsink which then distributes it through the CPUís external package.
With Devilís Canyon-based Haswell processors, Intel is addressing these issues in a number of ways. First and foremost, this ďHaswell v1.5Ē will be using an enhanced TIM mixture which should go a long way towards addressing some of the concerns expressed by enthusiasts. There will also be a thorough reworking of the CPU die package itself which, when combined with other enhancements will likely lead to higher clock speeds, lower temperatures and increase overclocking headroom. Weíd assume all of these advances will be rolled into the aforementioned Haswell-E CPUs as well.
Some of these fixes may leave enthusiasts wondering why Intel didnít address the issues beforehand but one aspect of Devil's Canyon will likely raise hackles: the processors will only be compatible with upcoming 9-series motherboards due to slight changes in the CPUís microcode. Anyone using an 8-series chipset like the popular Z87 will have to stick with the hot-running first generation Haswell parts.
Pentium Gets Unlocked with a 20th Anniversary Edition
The last bit of news may not be of particular interest to anyone looking at high end processors but at the risk of editorializing, itís the one Iím most excited about. Ever since Intel started locking down the multipliers of anything but their highest tier processors, more affordable alternatives were left with marginal, if any, overclocking headroom. From a corporate perspective this strategy made perfect sense since it ensured Intelís product categories remained within well defined, walled-off areas where less expensive processors couldnít compete with premium alternatives.
Now, Intel will be launching a limited edition Pentium series (read: very affordable) called the Anniversary Edition in homage to the long-running brandís 20th birthday. These CPUs will boast unlocked multipliers, have the integrated Quick Sync video capabilities and will be compatible with both 8-series and 9-series motherboards. This will get highly overclockable processors into the hands of budget-minded gamers sometime in the second half of this year and thatís certainly something to celebrate.
All in all, none of these announcements is particularly groundbreaking but they do serve as a shot of adrenalin to the desktop PC market.
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