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Jan 07 2015

Intel Introduces 5th Generation Core Processors

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On the first day of this year's CES, chip giant Intel took center stage with the launch of its latest line of Core™ processors, based on the Broadwell microarchitecture and a 14-nanometer (nm) production process.

Euphoria about its Haswell product family hasn't even cooled off yet, but Intel is already relentlessly forging ahead with a new series of desktop and notebook CPUs. Officially dubbed 5th Generation Intel Core™ processors, they're also known under the more popular moniker Broadwell that references a leaner, more powerful and energy-efficient microarchitecture as well as a shrink in chip size that's accompanied by a surge in transistor count. Less poetically put, Intel has managed to pack 1.3 billion transistors onto a die that measures just 82 square millimeters – a 35% increase paired with a 37% decrease compared to Haswell CPUs. Moreover, this 'tick' step in Intel's famous tick-tock scheme is supposed to bring about various productivity gains as well as longer battery runtimes while opening up the company's 14nm process technology for mainstream client computing devices. Following Intel's own account, this will result in the following improvements:

  • Performance – The 5th-gen Core i3/5/7 processors introduced at the CES will "deliver up to 24 percent better graphics performance [and] up to 50 percent faster video conversion." Intel also claims that customers who decide to fit the new CPUs into 4-to-5 year old PCs and notebooks will benefit from up to 12 times better graphics performance, 9 times faster boot sequences, 8 times faster video conversion, and 2.5 times faster responses in productivity applications, e.g. office programs. It should be noted here, however, that this comparison refers to devices based on the Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge or even Westmere processor designs; when stacked up against Haswell CPUs, the improvements aren't quite as substantial – Excel or Word will only respond about 4% faster on Broadwell machines.
  • Energy efficiency – Thanks to power management and design improvements and the increased efficiency of the 14nm manufacturing process, users can draw 1.5 hours more battery runtime from the new models than from older Core processors. That's 90 minutes on top of the already amazing 10 to 20 hours of the previous generation – in other words, notebooks users have even less reason to worry their device may shut down midway through an important job.
  • New and improved integrated graphics – For a long time, Intel has tried to come up with an integrated graphics solution that matches the capabilities of discrete entry-level to midrange graphics cards. Over the past decade, these efforts weren't much of a success: if all you wanted to do was write up Word documents, surf the web and check out your Facebook account, then integrated graphics were usually sufficient, and in the past five years, they even learned how to gracefully handle YouTube videos and online games. Yet there were numerous scenarios where the concept failed to work; media professionals and avid gamers in particular still prefer their GeForce and Radeon gear. Intel's new Core processor platform on the other hand may rock this long-standing belief system, as it offers not one, but four different graphics modules – HD, HD 5500, HD 6000, and Iris™ 6100. Among these, Iris™ is the one with the highest performance drawn from 48 shader cores that allow for 20% better 3D performance. All new graphics units support video codecs like VP8, VP9 and HEVC as well as modern APIs, including DirectX 11.2 and OpenGL 4.3. In addition, Intel claims they are capable of delivering screen resolutions up to 4K UHD – which would indeed be a stunning achievement for on-chip GPUs.
  • Enhancements – All new Core processors offer extended functionalities such as RealSense™ 3D, which enables gesture control and 3D capture and edit, Wireless Display (WiDi) for wireless sharing of screen content, and Wireless Gigabit (WiGig) for wireless docking of peripherals.

Intel's Broadwell CPUs come in 14 editions and are equipped with two cores whose base clock speeds range from 2 to 3.1 GHz (2.7 to 3.4 GHz in turbo mode if available); so far, no quad-cores are listed. RAM support is limited to 16 GB max. Models with HD 5500 and HD 6000 graphics use up 15 watts TDP, the four Iris-enabled versions (Core i3-5157U, Core i5-5257U and -5287U, Core i7-5557U) draw 28 watts. According to German IT news site heise online, Intel has also introduced new Celeron and Pentium processors based on the same microarchitecture. The first Broadwell-based devices are expected to go on sale later this month.

For more information, please see Neil McAllister's detailed account at The Register, and watch Intel CEO Brian Krzanich's entertaining CES keynote at cesweb.org. Ian Cutress of Anandtech provides helpful graphics and tables.

 
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