Intel aims to dominate the high end gaming market

Intel Corp. (INTC) last year successfully navigated a potentially treacherous die-shrink to the 22 nanometer node with the Ivy Bridge core.  This year it followed up with a redesigned architecture, Haswell on the 22 nm node, which incorporates aggressive power savings and better on-die GPUs.

I. Bye Bye Broadwell? (Till 2015) 

Intel's roadmap has long stated that 2014 would mark the arrival of 14 nm chips with the Broadwell die shrink.  But multiple rumor sites are showing leaked Intel slides that indicate that the 14 nm node is proving particularly onerous.

Thus for 2014 Intel won't be offering a die shrink, but a breather "Haswell refresh".  In some regards this will likely be similar to NVIDIA Corp.'s (NVDAGeForce 700 Series, which kept the same core designs and process node (28 nm), but rebranded parts, shuffling higher performance parts to lower price points.

Intel roadmap

The pace of Intel's die shrinks will reportedly slow in 2014. [Image Source: VR-Zone]

The delay also gives Intel's mobile offerings (which are currently on 32 nm) time to catch up.  The 22 nm, quad-core tablet-geared Atoms (core: Silvermont; SoC: ValleyView; chipset: Bay Trail) are scheduled to hit the tablet market later this year, and hit the smartphone market early next year.

All of Intel's 22 nm Atom product line will be under 18 watts (as a platform, not just the CPU) and all of Intel's mainstream Core i-Series product line will be under 95 watts.

II. Extreme Edition Processors Fill in the Gaps

Intel is also planning a pair of "Extreme" edition releases this fall (Ivy Bridge Extreme) and next fall (Haswell Extreme).  Information on those releases has leaked courtesy of VR-Zone.

With growing controversy over digital rights management (DRM) in the console gaming market -- particularly with Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Xbox One -- personal computer gaming may be poised for a resurgence.  With that in mind Intel's bid to dominate the enthusiast gaming market will center on its "Extreme" branded processors.

Note, that since the 32 nm Sandy Bridge launch the "Extreme" SKUs are now trailing their mainstream counterparts of the same core design by about a year.  This makes for confusing marketing, as the current Extreme edition processors will be a generation behind the mainstream ones in core design, yet both are presumably going to be marketed under the same "Core i-Series" designation (with the only thing hinting at the older architecture being the "Extreme" branding).

[Image Source: VR-Zone]

But enthusiasts are a savvy bunch, so hopefully they'll be aware of what they're getting with the latest "Extreme" chips.

Much has already been published about Ivy Bridge-E, but the VR-Zone piece deals with its architecture-refreshed successor, Haswell-E.  The leaked slides seemingly confirm the timeline of the previous leak, indicating that Haswell-E chips won't be available until sometime late next year (H2 2014). 

The leaked slides show the Haswell-E chips will (presumably) be Intel's first consumer octacore offering, packing a whopping sixteen threads.  There will also be slightly cheaper hexacore (12-thread) variants.  The cache will be bumped from 15 MB with Ivy Bridge-E to 20 MB in Haswell-E.  Both releases will support up to four PCI-Express 3.0 graphics cards.  But Haswell-E will add a neat trick, supporting the upcoming fourth generation double data rate memory, DDR4-2133.  (Ivy Bridge-E bumps memory support to DDR3-1866.)

[Image Source: VR-Zone]

The core speed is shown to be 3.0 GHz, but the slide brags about "more overclocking options for professional and home users", so expect some wiggle room on that number.  (Quad-core Haswells are currently clocked at up to 3.7 GHz.)

[Image Source: VR-Zone]

Given the assumption that these "Extreme" edition chips will be bought for powerful gaming systems with one or more graphics cards, the dies will lack a built-in GPU like their mainstream equivalents.

Sources: VR-Zone [1], [2]

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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