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New chips take voltage regulator module (VRM) off the motherboard for the first time, into the package

As Intel Corp. (INTC) continues the wind-up towards the launch of its latest generation of Core processors powered by the 22 nanometer (nm) architecture refreshed Haswell CPU core, details about the chips' performance continue to trickle out.

I. Power Improvements Galore

In addition to monstrous performance, Rani Borkar, corporate vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, promises that Haswell will be Intel's most efficient CPU yet.  The second-generation 22 nm node is expected to deliver around a 50 percent bump in active battery life, Mr. Borkar said in a pre-Computex 2013 press briefing.  Ivy Bridge chips hit as low as 10 watts TDP, but Haswell is expected to cut that down to a mere 7 W TDP.

If that's not enough to impress buyers, Intel's new chips are supposed to bump idle and standby life by as much as 20-times over Ivy Bridge, meaning you'll be able to hibernate a machine for weeks or months even without plugging it in.

The key to Haswell's gains is a new "smart" power controller unit (PCU) that monitors every part of the chip -- from the graphics to the CPU cores to the I/O units.  The PCU can dynamically regulate power allotted to each part of the circuit as needed. This contrasts decades of past designs where clock speed (and power driving it) was often wasted on idle units.


Haswell cuts core power consumption via a new smart power regulator, brings the voltage regulator module inside the package for the first time, and offers more efficient interconnects.

Haswell supporting chipsets also offers improvements on the power electronics front, featuring a leaner voltage regulator module (the motherboard component that converts the higher board voltage down to a lower voltage level usable by the microprocessor die).  With Haswell, the voltage regulator is integrated inside the chip package for the first time (removing it from the motherboard), which will allow for smaller motherboards.

That should be helpful to Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFTpush for 7-inch and 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablets. The explosion of this lower-priced segment helped propel another struggling tablet platform -- Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android -- from a bit player to a serious contender, with designs like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) Kindle Fire, and ASUSTek Computer, Inc. (TPE:2357) Google-branded Nexus 7 tablet.

The 7-to-8-inch segment offers lower prices due to the smaller screen size.  The form factor was popular enough even Apple, Inc. (AAPLbegrudgingly jumped on the bandwagon with the iPad Mini.

II. Windows 8.1 and Haswell -- A Winning Duo?

The new Intel chip will also have embedded DRAM (memory), which should help further cut down on external components in small form factors.  AnandTech reports that the GPU will have 128 MB of dedicated DRAM in some variants.  The new chip also offers faster interconnects, another factor helping it hit the 7 watt envelope.

Intel has already shared that Haswell cores' revamped on-die graphics processing unit (dGPU) are expected to increase performance between 50 and 300 percent, depending on the model.  Intel has, for the first time, offered a distinct branding for its dGPU, dubbing it "Iris".  Demos showed Iris handling popular RPG/slasher/spellcasting game The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim with with ease.

Windows Blue styles
Intel and Microsoft are both counting on the combo of the free Windows 8.1 update, and the new Haswell chips to boost struggling PC sales. [Image Source: The Verge]
 
More details of the new chip are expected to come out in two weeks at Computex, which runs June 4-8 in Taiwan.  A number of OEMs are expected to show off Haswell based designs.  More designs may pop up at Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFTBUILD 2013 conference, which will be held June 26-28 in San Francisco, Calif.  At the conference Microsoft is expected to offer up a Release Preview of Windows 8.1, the free revamp to Windows 8, which Microsoft hopes will win back critics.  

In many ways Intel and Microsoft's fates are tied together.  Q1 2013 marked the worse percentage drop in PC unit sales in history.  But both companies are hoping that the market reacts strongly to Haswell + Windows 8.1 ultrabooks, hybrids, and tablet computers.


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Random Thought
By Ammohunt on 5/24/2013 11:59:26 AM , Rating: -1
So Microsoft can't bundle IE in their OS but hardware vendors can "bundle" non upgradeable video hardware on their CPU dies. Where are the EU lawsuits defending consumer choice?

Solid technology but you can't avoid the fact that intel is coming from last place with a thoroughbred (ARM) a long distance ahead of them.




RE: Random Thought
By GreenEnvt on 5/24/2013 12:57:11 PM , Rating: 2
Um, for desktops there is nothing stopping you from adding in a discrete graphics card to a computer that has a cpu/gpu combo in it.

For notebooks, with a few very rare exceptions, you've never been able to upgrade the graphics. There just isn't enough room to have removable/replaceable cards.


RE: Random Thought
By Samus on 5/24/2013 1:08:21 PM , Rating: 2
I feel bad for the poor VRM manufactures. POOR VRM :(


RE: Random Thought
By Ammohunt on 5/24/2013 2:50:09 PM , Rating: 2
Same goes for web browsers yet there was a lawsuit.


RE: Random Thought
By inighthawki on 5/24/2013 3:46:26 PM , Rating: 2
And on windows you can install any browser you want ;)

(Not to sound like I agree with the premise of his post, but I don't think you actually have a point...)


RE: Random Thought
By Argon18 on 5/24/13, Rating: -1
RE: Random Thought
By retrospooty on 5/24/2013 3:33:09 PM , Rating: 2
Won? It's barely started. Dont rule Intel out, they have money, talent, influence, and manufacturing capabilities that can get them in first place in no time at all. right now the 32mn Atom is in a few phones and is the fastest available in many aspects and "middle of the pack" on power. Throw in a few power Haswell style power tweaks and a process shrink and Its by far the best mobile chip available.


RE: Random Thought
By inighthawki on 5/24/2013 3:58:25 PM , Rating: 2
You'd be surprised at what haswell can do in the tablet space. Wait a few months and you'll find out. My guess, ARM will be irrelevant in just a couple years.


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