While they haven’t been much of a secret lately, Computex 2013 was more or less the coming out party for Intel’s 4th generation of core processors, known better as Haswell. Loads of ultrabooks and hybrids running on Haswell chips were announced this week. So, what’s the deal with this 4th generation of Intel core processors?
Pure processing power isn’t the main concern here. Haswell chips are, on the whole, faster than the 3rd generation Ivy Bridge processors, but not by a whole lot. The real advantage of Haswell is how much power the processor uses up – far less than Ivy Bridge. That makes Haswell better for tablets, since it enables longer battery lives. In fact, Intel wants to stress that Haswell is the first core-based SoC (system on chip), and the first generation designed specifically with mobile devices in mind.
Not only will battery lives be longer, but the low power consumption of the Haswell chips means cooler-running devices. During their Computex keynote, Intel briefly showed off a fanless tablet. If you liked Ivy Bridge, but don’t like the immense amount of heat those processors generate sometimes, you might find yourself interested in a Haswell device.
The other major improvement in the Haswell line of chips has been to Intel’s integrated graphics. Intel HD graphics have long been an excuse for many to look for notebooks with discrete graphics processors from NVIDIA or AMD, for any reason from graphic design to gaming, eating the extra cost a discrete graphics card tacks on to the price of a machine. Intel’s new integrated graphics, Iris Pro, still won’t be on the same level as a good discrete graphics card, but it’s no joke, either.
A demo of a racing game running on Iris Pro was playable at Intel’s Computex booth. The game wasn’t exactly a technical marvel, but it’s what you might expect, graphically, from a middle-of-the-road game. The game was running very smoothly on high (but not the highest) settings, and the notebook running the game was warm to the touch, but not uncomfortably so. Iris Pro will be able to handle 1080p gaming, according to an Intel rep, and from the demo, it looks like the performance of Intel’s new integrated graphics should be enough for most people interested in computer games. Those looking to play games like Bioshock Infinite or the newest Crysis on the highest settings should probably still look to NVIDIA or AMD.
Intel did want to stress Iris Pro’s aptitude for video transcoding. Another demo showed that, with GPU acceleration turned on, Iris Pro can transcode at 30 FPS while using less than three percent of Haswell’s processing power. One Intel rep even want so far as to say he believes Iris Pro will be better for video transcoding than discrete graphics processors.
So, what can you expect? Haswell processors, by themselves (for those looking to build their own machine) are much more expensive than Ivy Bridge processors, so we’ll have to wait and see whether or not new ultrabooks and hybrids running on the new processors will see a similar bump in price. Otherwise, you can expect much longer battery lives and cooler devices, some of which might not even require fans. Finally, if you enjoy gaming or entertainment, but you’re not in the most picky group when it comes to graphics quality, Iris Pro looks like it will be the first time Intel’s integrated graphics can hack it respectably.