Intel's Haswell gets mixed reviews from analysts

-June 05, 2013

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Five microprocessor analysts gave mixed reviews to Haswell, Intel’s latest microprocessor launched June 4 at Computex in Taipei. The net I took away is the chip is a great piece of silicon engineering, but won't revive a slumping traditional PC market or become Intel's main offering in tablets.

Intel originally pitched the design in 2011 as the killer chip for Ultrabooks, its concept for an Apple Air-like ultrathin notebook. To meet that goal, Haswell would be Intel’s lowest power x86 ever and its first chip designed for its 22nm FinFET process.

But the Apple iPad proved to be an even more formidable concept in the market, forcing Intel to drive its targets for Haswell power consumption to even more aggressive lows than it originally planned. An Intel chief architect on the project hailed Haswell as a near home run across the broadest set of tablet, notebook, desktop and server markets Intel ever targeted.

The chip will come in versions running as low as 6W, driving nine hours of active use. Some users will leave their AC chargers at home “and that’s a big deal,” said Nathan Brookwood, principal of Insight64 (Saratoga, Calif.).

Haswell also sports a new graphics core that doubles 3-D performance over previous Intel on-chip graphics. However, to get the lower power consumption overall, Intel had to trade off higher x86 core performance.

“Haswell is only marginally better than [the existing] Ivy Bridge [CPUs] for most compute tasks,” Brookwood said.

The net result is “there’s still a big gap between the performance of the fastest Intel Atoms and the slowest Haswells,” said Brookwood. “Likewise, battery life is way better with Atom than with the best Haswell,” he said.

Thus “there’s nothing in the ARM camp that can compete with Haswell on performance, and there’s nothing in the Haswell camp that can compete with ARM for battery life,” he added.

Click on image to enlarge.

Haswell will come in versions with two or more x86 and one or two graphics cores for tablets, notebooks, desktops and servers.

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