Intel’s Broadwell processor revealed

Intel hasn’t taken too kindly to the revolution in mobile devices that has happened largely without its participation. The rise of smartphones and tablets with ARM-compatible chips onboard has become a major threat to Intel’s dominance in the processor business—and this is, after all, a company built on the mantra that “only the paranoid survive.”

Thus, for several technology generations, Intel has slowly adjusted its heading to better compete in mobile devices. The firm has used its expertise in chip manufacturing and design to cram PC-like performance into ever smaller footprints. Last year’s Haswell chip brought huge progress in terms of power consumption, battery life, and system sizes. This year, a new processor code-named Broadwell promises dramatic gains once again, thanks in part to the world-class nanoscale technology in Intel’s 14-nm chip fabrication process.

The first Broadwell-based processors will carry a new brand name, Core M, and they will target very small systems indeed: iPad-like tablets that are less than nine millimeters thick and have no fans to cool them. Fitting a PC-class processor into such a device is no easy task. Intel claims to have achieved this feat by tweaking nearly every part of the Broadwell silicon and surrounding platform in order to reduce its size and power consumption. More impressively, they say they’ve kept performance steady at the same time.

Enforcing Moore’s Law: Intel’s 14-nm process

One key ingredient in Broadwell’s success is Intel’s 14-nm manufacturing process, the world’s first of its kind. Broadwell has been very publicly delayed due to some teething problems with this new process. In a briefing last week, however, Intel VP and Director of 14-nm Technology Development Sanjay Natarajan told us that the 14-nm process is now qualified and in volume production.

In fact, Natarajan shared quite a few specifics about the 14-nm process in order to underscore Intel’s success. His core message: the 14-nm process provides true scaling from the prior 22-nm node, with virtually all of the traditional benefits of Moore’s Law intact.

Moore’s Law has made the massive advances in microelectronics over the past 40 years possible. Its basic formulation says that the number of transistors one can pack into a given area of a chip will roughly double every couple of years. Intel has moved mountains to keep Moore’s Law on track, and it has reaped huge benefits for doing so. The rest of the semiconductor industry has followed the same path, but in recent years, it has done so from a fair distance behind Intel. For instance, this 14-nm process is the second generation to employ what Intel calls tri-gate transistors (which the rest of the industry calls FinFETs). Other firms have yet to ship first-generation FinFET silicon.

Shrinking on-chip features to ever-smaller dimensions is an incredibly difficult problem, and the complexity of the task has grown with each successive generation. When questioned during a press briefing we attended, Natarajan was quick to admit that the familiar naming convention we use to denote manufacturing processes is mostly just branding. The size of various on-chip elements diverged from the process name years ago, perhaps around the 90-nm node. That said, Intel Fellow and process development guru Mark Bohr quickly pointed out that transistor densities have continued to scale as expected from one generation to the next. In other words, Moore’s Law is alive and well.

Source: Intel.

To illustrate, Natarajan showed how the fins comprising Intel’s tri-grate transistors have grown closer together at the 14-nm node—fin pitch has been reduced from 60 to 42 nm—while the fins themselves have grown taller and thinner. The closer placement improves density, while the new fin structure allows for increased drive current and thus better performance. This higher performance, in turn, allows Intel to use fewer fins for some on-chip structures, further increasing the effective density of the process. Fewer fins also means lower capacitance and more power-efficient operation.

Source: Intel.

The gate pitch has been reduced from 90 to 70 nm and, as shown above, the spacing of the smallest interconnects has dropped even more dramatically, from 80 to 52 nm.

Source: Intel.

The cumulative result of these changes is perhaps best demonstrated by looking at a fairly common benchmark: the size of a six-transistor SRAM cell. On Intel’s 22-nm process, a 6T cell occupies 0.108 square micrometers of space. The same structure at 14-nm takes up only 0.0588 square micrometers—or 54% of the area required at 22-nm. That’s classic Moore’s Law-style area scaling.

Source: Intel.

The benefits of the 14-nm process extend beyond sheer density. Natarajan shared the graph above to convey the power and performance advances offered by this 14-nm process. Essentially, it can flip bits at higher speeds than prior generations while losing less power in the form of leakage along the way. Intel can choose to tune its products for different points along the leakage-performance curve shown above, but in each case, chips built on the 14-nm process should offer a nicer set of tradeoffs than those from prior process generations.

This next illustration is perhaps the most telling, because it addresses one of the key threats to Moore’s Law going forward: economics. I said before that the transition to each smaller process node has been more difficult than the last. Chipmakers have had to use ever more exotic techniques like double-patterning—creating two separate masks for photolithography and exposing them at a slight offset—in order to achieve higher densities. Doing so increases costs, and as a result, one of the key corollaries of Moore’s Law has been threatened. If moving to finer process nodes can’t reduce the cost per transistor, the march of ever-more-complex microelectronics could slow down considerably. Some chipmakers have hinted that we’ll be approaching that point very soon.

Source: Intel.

By contrast, Intel says the math continues to work well for its process tech. The area per transistor is dropping steadily over time, while the cost for each square millimeter of silicon is rising at a slower pace. The net result remains a steady decrease in cost per transistor through the 14-nm node. In fact, Bohr told us that he expects Intel to deliver an even lower cost per transistor in its upcoming 10-nm process.

Despite the delays, then, Intel is bullish about its process tech advancements and confident that its 14-nm technology is ready to roll. Natarajan says the company is now shipping 14-nm production chips to its customers, and the first Core M-based products should arrive on store shelves in time for this year’s holiday season. Two fabs, one in Oregon and the other in Arizona, are slated to be producing 14-nm wafers this year, with another plant in Ireland scheduled to ramp up production in 2015. Natarajan expects sufficient 14-nm silicon yields and wafer volumes to support “multiple 14-nm product ramps in the first half of 2015.”

 

The Broadwell SoC and module

In some ways, the Broadwell-Y chip follows the same basic outlines as the Haswell-Y processor before it. Both chips have dual CPU cores, 3MB of L3 cache, and integrated graphics.

A shot of the Broadwell-Y die. Source: Intel.

Still, according to Stephan Jourdan, Intel Fellow and Director of SoC Architecture in the Platform Engineering Group, fitting a chip like this one into a fanless tablet form factor less than nine millimeters thick is a daunting challenge. The power that an SoC can consume in a device is determined by lots of factors, including display size, chassis thickness, the materials used, and even ambient temperatures. Jourdan says the system type Intel targeted, with a 10.1″ display, requires an SoC that operates at three to five watts of sustained power. (That’s not TDP, or peak power, but likely maps to Intel’s newer SDP metric for mobile processors.) Given that the prior-gen Haswell Y-series processors operate at a 6W SDP, Broadwell would need to cut sustained operating power in half to meet this goal. Broadwell’s physical size would have to shrink, too, in order to fit into the target devices.

The Broadwell team attacked these problems on all fronts. Thanks to the 14-nm process, the SoC shrank substantially from one generation to the next. The Haswell Y-series SoC measures 130 square millimeters, while Broadwell-Y occupies only 82 mm². That’s not exactly half the area, but Intel’s architects have added a number of features to Broadwell in order to improve its power efficiency and performance. The net result of everyone’s efforts, claims Jourdan, is a chip that delivers more than twice the performance per watt of Haswell-Y before it.

Some of the advancement comes courtesy of an advantage unique to Intel, one the company is quick to emphasize these days. Intel’s process tech engineers and chip designers have the ability to work together, within the same company, to “co-optimize” their products and fabrication processes. Jourdan credits a specially tuned flavor of the 14-nm process for a further 10% reduction in capacitance in Broadwell-Y silicon, a 10% lower minimum operating voltage, and a 10-15% switching speed improvement at low voltages. All told, the combination of general 14-nm improvements and process-specific tuning account for roughly two-thirds of the power efficiency gains from Haswell-Y to Broadwell-Y.

As you may know, Haswell-Y isn’t entirely a “true” system on a chip. Many of the legacy I/O functions are hosted on a separate piece of silicon, known as the Platform Controller Hub or PCH, that mounts on a common module with the CPU. Broadwell-Y follows the same template, but the module had to shrink dramatically to fit into tablet-sized devices. The Broadwell module is 50% smaller in area than the Haswell version, as pictured on the right, and it’s 30% shorter in the Z dimension, as well.

The underside of a Broadwell-Y motherboard. Source: Intel.

Yes, this is a dual-core x86 processor with two “big cores,” integrated graphics, and a companion chipset. Kind of hard to believe, isn’t it?

The 3DL PCB’s placement illustrated. Source: Intel.

Reducing the SoC module’s thickness required some ingenuity. The fully-integrated voltage regulator (FIVR) in Haswell and Broadwell allows for fast, fine-grained power state transitions on the chip, but it also requires the presence of external inductors on the SoC package that add height. To overcome this obstacle, the Broadwell team developed a workaround it calls the 3DL module. The inductors are placed on a small external PCB that hangs beneath the SoC module. To make room for the 3DL PCB, each motherboard has a hole cut into it, directly beneath the Broadwell module. This arrangement effectively “hides” the additional Z-height of the inductors and allows Broadwell-Y’s total height to be almost 50% lower than the Haswell equivalent.

Interestingly, Jourdan shared the details of another FIVR workaround the Broadwell team had to implement. Because FIVR isn’t very efficient at low voltages, they added a mode called LVR where FIVR essentially gets bypassed under the right conditions. The need for 3DL and LVR makes one wonder whether the level of VR integration in Broadwell makes sense for future generations of Intel SoCs.

Managing power and extending dynamic range

Source: Intel.

Intel’s chip- and system-level dynamic power management capabilities are incredibly sophisticated these days. One of the key mechanisms, Turbo Boost, has added a new wrinkle so that Broadwell can fit into a new class of devices.

The smaller batteries in sub-nine-mm tablets can potentially be stressed into failure by short bursts of high power consumption from the CPU, so the Broadwell team had to design a mechanism to avoid such problems. The result is a new, more granular limit in this chip’s dynamic voltage and frequency scaling algorithm known as PL3. The other limits will be familiar from past chips. PL1 is the long-term CPU power limit that the system can withstand without overheating. This limit is measured across minutes of operation. PL2 is the short-term burst limit used for temporary excursions to higher clocks—say, a quick trip to a faster clock frequency to improve responsiveness while loading a program. PL2 is measured in seconds. The new PL3 limit is monitored in milliseconds, to prevent instantaneous power use from damaging the device’s battery.

The additional intelligence in Broadwell’s Turbo Boost control complements the rest of Intel’s power management mojo, which allows power sharing across the SoC die and manages the thermal behavior of the entire system.

Even with all the goodness of the 14-nm process and Broadwell’s dynamic power management, driving SoC power from 6W to 3W while maintaining performance was probably out of reach without some additional help. Intel was bumping up against some basic limits in the physics of chip operation.

For one, the firm could only reduce Broadwell’s operating voltage so much before the transistors would cease to work properly. Any home overclocker knows how crucial voltage is to ensuring stable CPU operation. This lower limit on voltage is a significant barrier to driving down power consumption in a chip like Broadwell with over a billion transistors.

You see, a chip’s power draw is determined by a fairly simple equation that involves the clock frequency, the number of bits actively flipping, and the square of voltage—and that squared term means voltage tends to dominate the conversation. The Broadwell team could push its chip’s clock speeds lower, but doing so would only result in linear reductions in power draw. Any time a portion of the chip is operating at low clock speeds and at the chip’s minimum voltage level, it’s just not being terribly efficient.

Source: Intel.

The Broadwell team’s solution to this dilemma was to adopt a method known as duty cycling. With duty cycling, some portions of the chip are turned off entirely during certain clock cycles. Intel has used duty cycle throttling (DCT) for years to rein in its CPUs to prevent failures in the event of overheating.

Broadwell introduces a new mechanism called duty cycling control (DCC) that has a different aim. Broadwell’s integrated graphics component takes up roughly a third of its die area, perhaps a little more, and DCC targets those graphics units. Working together, the SoC hardware and Intel’s graphics driver can shut the IGP’s execution units off entirely during some clock cycles, eliminating even leakage power. DCC kicks in when those execution units would otherwise be operating under inefficient conditions: at a low clock frequency where further voltage reductions aren’t practical.

With a light graphics workload that only requires half of the IGP’s horsepower, DCC might ensure that the IGP spends half its cycles turned off and the other half doing its work. Jourdan tells us Broadwell’s integrated GPU has very low latency for switching on and off, which makes this mechanism practical. In fact, Broadwell’s IGP has a range of DCC operating points ranging as low as 12.5% of the regular clock speed. At that lowest level, the graphics EUs are active for only one out of every eight clock cycles. They’re powered down for the rest, even though the IGP may be drawing an animation on screen.

So that’s another way the Broadwell team managed to shoehorn this chip into a much smaller power envelope. One can imagine that this technique could see extensive use in the future, as graphics hardware takes up an ever larger portion of the die area. What’s more, since the SoC can share power across its die, some of the power reductions realized on the graphics side of the house with DCC can be used to enable Broadwell’s CPU cores to run at higher frequencies, as well. So DCC offers an effective increase in dynamic operating range on both ends of the spectrum.

 

Oh, right: architecture!

Intel’s tick-tock process typically confines major CPU architecture changes to the second chip produced on a new process technology, but that rigid segmentation seems to be leaking a bit over time as Intel pursues its goal of credibility—er, dominance?—in the mobile space.

Broadwell’s CPU cores have received a number of tweaks over Haswell’s, with the net effect of increasing instruction throughput per clock by about five percent, generally speaking. In keeping with Broadwell’s mobile focus, Intel’s architects set a high standard for any added features in this revision of the architecture: a new feature must contribute 2% more performance for every 1% of added power use. In the past, any gain better than 1:1 might have been acceptable, but not so this time.

That said, the list of performance-enhancing changes to Broadwell’s core still has quite a few familiar-sounding items. The expanded transistor budget at 14-nm has allowed for larger structures in many cases: a bigger out-of-order scheduler, a 50% larger TLB for the L2 cache, and a new, dedicated L2 TLB for 1GB pages. Also, a second unit can now handle TLB page misses in parallel with the primary one. With all of the TLB enhancements, it should be no surprise that virtualization round trips are supposedly quicker.

Of course, the ubiquitous “improved branch prediction” line-item is present, but Intel hasn’t disclosed any details of how it’s achieved more accurate predictions.

Broadwell has a fewer beefier execution units, too. The floating-point multiplier’s latency has dropped from five to three cycles. There’s a new Radix-1024 divider, and vector gather operations are now faster. Certain cryptography-specific instructions now execute more quickly, as well.

The changes to Broadwell’s graphics and media architecture are arguably even more sweeping. Here’s a quick but still daunting overview of the new arrangement.

A logical block diagram of Broadwell’s integrated graphics. Source: Intel.

The most notable change in Broadwell-Y’s IGP is an increase in the number of modular “slices” of graphics resources included—three here, versus two in Haswell GT2. Each slice has its own L1 cache, texture cache, and texture sampling/filtering hardware, so Broadwell is up 50% on those fronts versus the prior generation.

Meanwhile, the number of graphics execution units per slice has dropped a bit, from 10 to eight. Broadwell therefore has a total of 24 graphics EUs and 192 stream processors. By contrast, Haswell has 20 EUs and 160 SPs. The overall trajectory in terms of graphics units is northward, but Broadwell tilts the balance toward more texturing and sampling hardware.

The graphics microarchitecture in Broadwell has changed, too, with tweaks to improve geometry throughput and Z- and pixel-fill rates. This hardware officially supports the latest APIs, including DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.3, and, at last, OpenCL 2.0 with shared virtual memory for GPU computing.

Without IGP clock speeds, which we don’t yet know, we can’t really make any assessments about how Broadwell compares to Haswell or to competitors like AMD’s Kaveri. As with Haswell, we’d expect to see a beefier GT3 version of Broadwell graphics eventually, likely on a quad-core die and occasionally paired with an external eDRAM chip for much higher throughput.

The addition of more samplers and stream processors directly benefits the IGP’s media processing capabilities. Intel claims Broadwell’s video engine can achieve up to double the throughput of its predecessor, and it says the QuickSync video transcoding engine in the chip has improved in terms of performance and output quality.

Since Broadwell’s display block can drive 4K displays, the chip’s ability to handle 4K-class video processing is a live issue. Rather than decode the new 4K-oriented H.265 standard entirely in hardware, Broadwell will take what Intel calls a hybrid approach, using some fixed-function hardware in conjunction with the graphics EUs to process H.265 video. The firm claims H.265 decoding on Broadwell-Y is “fast enough for 4K” with no caveats, and it says H.265 encoding is sufficient for 4K resolutions at 30 Hz. That’s not too bad, all things considered, although I wouldn’t expect H.265 processing to be terribly power efficient given the involvement of the graphics EUs.

A new chipset: Broadwell PCH-LP

Although it looks to be about the same size as the prior version and is manufactured on an older 32-nm process, Broadwell’s platform controller hub is new silicon, too. The PCH-LP will accompany Broadwell-Y in low-power, fanless systems.

The most dramatic changes here versus last year’s model have to do with power efficiency. Intel’s designers have added more power gating around the PCH chip, resulting in a 25% reduction in idle power draw. Active power use is down by about 20% versus the Haswell PCH-LP, as well, and the firm has built a collection of firmware and software updates that enable the PCH to do fine-grained monitoring of power use.

Feature-wise, the PCH has gotten an upgrade in the audio DSP department, with more SRAM and MIPS than before. As with everything else, Intel expects the improved audio hardware to conserve power at the end of the day. The other feature of note is the welcome addition of support for PCIe-based storage.

 

Is this thing for real?

Sure looks like it. Although they strangely asked us not to take any pictures during the press briefing, Intel passed around a nifty Broadwell reference design tablet code-named “Llama Mountain.” The screen was 12.5″ in size, and the chassis was 7.2 mm thick. The system was running Windows 8.1, and idling at the desktop, its skin felt relatively cool to the touch.

The Llama Mountain reference tablet. Source: Intel.

Intel appears to have crammed a fairly potent x86 PC into a system not much larger than an iPad Air.

We don’t yet know the full specs of the first Core M processors, but Intel has clearly set the expectation that Broadwell-Y will match the performance of Haswell-Y in half the power envelope. The Haswell-based Core i5-4200Y has a 1.4GHz base clock and a 1.9GHz Turbo peak. I fully expect to see a Core M processor with the same clock speeds in a sub-nine-mm tablet.

Another shot of the Broadwell die. Source: Intel.

The zillion-dollar question is whether having truly astounding performance in a tablet-style power envelope is enough to move the market in Intel’s direction. Will Windows-based tablets and two-in-ones become so attractive with the Core M onboard that consumers will overlook the clumsiness of Windows 8.1’s dual-mode usage model and dearth of touch-oriented applications?

Yeah, that’s a tough one.

A related and more interesting question is what Intel’s tolerance is for exploring lower price points. Broadwell-Y is darn near half the size of Haswell-Y, and assuming the 14-nm process matures as expected, it ought to be incredibly cheap to manufacture. One of those 10″ Windows tablets becomes a much more attractive alternative to an iPad when its price is comparable—or possibly even lower.

Intel also has the intriguing option of pursuing new territory now that Android on x86 is a reality. One could imagine an 11″ convertible tablet a la the Asus Transformer lineup sporting a Core M processor and bringing a whole new class of performance to the Android market.

That’s just speculation, though. What matters most are the systems Intel’s partners actually release during the coming holiday season. One or more of those will have to get some real traction with the buying public in order for the Core M to succeed out of the gate. We’ll be keep an eye on the prospects to see what develops.

Comments closed
    • NarwhaleAu
    • 5 years ago

    Now if only they would skip the rest of the CPU, and just build an entire graphics chip at 14nm. 😀 Call it something inventive like “Iris Pro Pro GT Extreme”.

    • ronch
    • 5 years ago

    Not really excited about this. When desktop Broadwell comes THEN I’ll pay attention.

    Or perhaps Intel is just giving AMD some leniency. Can’t wait to see what AMD’s upcoming ARM and x86 CPUs will bring.

    • deruberhanyok
    • 5 years ago

    Anyone else have the impression that they’re angling to get into Apple’s mobile devices? They already have a really good relationship with Apple, and processors like this could make an x86 iPad very compelling.

    On the other hand, Apple has in-house processor design that is serving them very well, so maybe not?

      • Airmantharp
      • 5 years ago

      Well, technically, they already are in all of Apple’s mobile devices that run the desktop version of OS X, but it does look like they might be pushing for iPads. And while that makes sense from Intel’s perspective, it’s hard to see Apple putting Broadwell into an iPad if it isn’t also running the desktop version of OS X, especially since Apple’s own mobile chipsets have been focused on high-powered graphics for gaming.

      Honestly though, Apple can use Broadwell to either to shrink their current platforms or to increase battery life, and I suspect that they’ll strike a balance between the two.

    • Ashbringer
    • 5 years ago

    Yea, a chip made for tablets. But tablet sales aren’t so hot lately, and I’m suppose to be excited? Bring me Iris Pro graphics to the desktop Intel!

      • Airmantharp
      • 5 years ago

      I could care very much less about the benefits of Iris Pro in a desktop (or other non-mobile form-factor), but I definitely wouldn’t mind having the cache it brings to the CPU available for other tasks 🙂

        • lycium
        • 5 years ago

        I could care a lot less too; in fact, I care a lot.

        Once more: Intel, Bring Iris Pro / Crystalwell to the desktop!

    • ronch
    • 5 years ago

    Intel can use all sorts of tactics to make OEMs adopt its chips and continue its dominance in this new computing landscape containing smartphones and tablets, but I hope the industry has learned its lesson. Lest they forget how Intel works and deals with OEMs who irk them (Intel) and how Intel wants the entire sandbox all to themselves, I think the industry needs to be more careful. ARM is the one shot the industry has to avoid another oligopoly, I hope they realize this.

    Reminds me of Thanos in the Marvel comic The Infinity Gauntlet. We already know how the mad Titan is when given great power, can we trust him with power again?

    • peaceandflowers
    • 5 years ago

    Some creds to the guys who actually make the 14 nm lithography machines, that make all this possible… ASML 🙂

      • Stonebender
      • 5 years ago

      Yeah, ASML has really stepped up their game. Prior to 14nm and 22nm, Nikon was the king when it came to critical layers, and the ASML tools were doing the relatively simple interconnect layers. The roles have reversed now.

        • chuckula
        • 5 years ago

        One thing I love about Intel presentations that you don’t get from many other manufacturers: electron microscope images. Rock.

    • Shouefref
    • 5 years ago

    “Intel appears to have crammed a fairly potent x86 PC into a system not much larger than an iPad Air.”

    So, the whole W8.x excercise was a waste of time, as I have been predicting from the beginning.

    “Will Windows-based tablets and two-in-ones become so attractive with the Core M onboard that consumers will overlook the clumsiness of Windows 8.1’s dual-mode usage model and dearth of touch-oriented applications?”

    Or will people by tablets and… put Windows 7 on it?

    “roadwell-Y is darn near half the size of Haswell-Y, …..”

    And that’s a tough cookie for AMD.

    • Ninjitsu
    • 5 years ago
    • ronch
    • 5 years ago

    Intel got there first.
    They got to 14nm
    before the others.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 5 years ago

    So if power draw is proportional to the square of voltage, if there are transistors with sub-1.0V switching voltages, the power draw will decrease non-linearly as well? 🙂

      • exilon
      • 5 years ago

      Yes. Look at y=x^2 on a graph.

      • Wirko
      • 5 years ago

      No “if” necessary. I have a couple of such transistors in my old E6400, running on 0.90V at stock speed.

    • Ninjitsu
    • 5 years ago

    [quote<] The need for 3DL and LVR makes one wonder whether the level of VR integration in Broadwell makes sense for future generations of Intel SoCs. [/quote<] One wonders?? One knows! Don't you, Scott. 😀 (It's been rumoured for Skylake though). [quote<] In fact, Broadwell's IGP has a range of DCC operating points ranging as low as 12.5% of the regular clock speed. At that lowest level, the graphics EUs are active for only one out of every eight clock cycles. They're powered down for the rest, even though the IGP may be drawing an animation on screen. [/quote<] Should work very well with panel self-refresh. [quote<] Meanwhile, the number of graphics execution units per slice has dropped a bit, from 10 to eight. Broadwell therefore has a total of 24 graphics EUs and 192 stream processors. By contrast, Haswell has 20 EUs and 160 SPs. The overall trajectory in terms of graphics units is northward, but Broadwell tilts the balance toward more texturing and sampling hardware. [/quote<] Sounds a bit similar to what Nvidia did with Maxwell. p.s. Moore's Law was an observation, not a scientific law. You don't have to work hard to keep a law valid, the law forces you to conform. :/

    • Airmantharp
    • 5 years ago

    It’s all about the apps.

    While I appreciate Intel’s efforts in area of pushing desktop-class performance into even smaller form-factors, what gets me is the near uselessness of ‘high-end’ tablets when use cases are even leisurely compared to laptops for productivity applications, or lower end tablets and phones for media consumption. Where is the killer app that would persuade me to purchase, carry, and use a high-end tablet in addition to phone, and instead of an Ultrabook?

      • LoneWolf15
      • 5 years ago

      Perhaps not a tablet, but a convertible (notebook/tablet).

      Not arguing for or against; I agree with you (or perhaps, I think you agree with me) that a tablet on its own isn’t productive enough; a keyboard allows functionality essential to productivity. That could mean though, that a theoretical Lenovo Yoga 3 or Dell Venue with keyboard, etc. might be perfect in this arena.

        • Airmantharp
        • 5 years ago

        I can deal with a ‘convertible’ so long as it comes with a decent keyboard, and I feel that Microsoft also has the idea mostly right with the Surface, which will likely be upgraded with Broadwell later this year. But the things that I like about the Surface are rather the unique combination of features involved.

        The challenge is that line between a cheap device that works very well for entertainment and limited interactivity, running a mobile OS, and an expensive device that runs a full desktop OS. Similarly, battery life would be truncated for the full-fat device while it should be relatively exceptional for the consumption-oriented one. And then to consider whether any device really gives someone more than they get with a larger cellphone.

        My point is that I just don’t see an application for an expensive tablet that would lead to mass-market appeal; in the end, I’d prioritize battery life for a ‘consumption’ device, while ergonomics and utility are slightly more important in a productivity device. I can watch video on a laptop, for example, but entering data into a spreadsheet or authoring a document on a tablet- including most convertibles- would be a relative nightmare. If I’m going to spend money for a higher-end device I’m going to want it to be good at both while maintaining portability.

          • Flying Fox
          • 5 years ago

          A ThinkPad Helix successor with Broadwell will be killer. Have been waiting since they declared skipping Haswell due to the Ivy Bridge delays for the first gen.

            • Airmantharp
            • 5 years ago

            Had to look that up, it’s pretty cool! And it’s basically what I’m seeing as the ‘minimum’ for a productivity-focused hybrid. I’d assume that they could reasonably make it thinner with Broadwell, and hopefully cheaper.

    • Krogoth
    • 5 years ago

    Intel is trying to obscure the fact that the silicon is running out of steam with marketing non-sense. It is likely that we start to run into the hard physical limits by the end of this decade.

    The entire semiconductor industry (Yes, even Intel) is struggling with the economics of moving to the next process move. The problem has never been the cost of manufacturing the actual product. It always been the cost of developing and building the tools needed to make mass-production feasible for the next mode. You also have to deal with the cost of retooling your existing infrastructure for it. This is even more brutal when you factor in the rapid product cycles for microprocessors.

    The smaller players have already seen the writing on the wall and have been trying to sell off their assets to the larger players.

    It always bothered me why “Moore’s Law” is always call a law when it is nothing more than an economic observation/trend. It has been invalidated for quite some time and growth curve is continuing to reach a plateau.

    In any event, it looks like Broadwell is going to be Intel’s massive counterattack against ARM’s line-up. The massive focus on watt/performance and trying to hammer itself to smaller form factors. A lesser version might seize the embedded market.

    For those who are were expecting a massive jump in desktop, workstation and server performance for the respectable variants are going to be disappointed. Server market will enjoy the improved power efficiency though.

      • albundy
      • 5 years ago

      looks like i’ll be sticking with my phenom 2 965 for a bit longer.

        • My Johnson
        • 5 years ago

        And upgrade would could potentially cut power use in half at the desktop. That’s a good bit of savings right there.

          • JustAnEngineer
          • 5 years ago

          Let’s say that you play games or run intense simulations 12 hours per week x 50 weeks / year x 70 watts difference x 12¢ per kW-hr… That’s $5 per year in power usage. If Intel sets the price of the new processor at $350 and the new motherboard at $150, it takes you 100 years to get your money back.

            • Airmantharp
            • 5 years ago

            I agree that the ‘power usage’ argument really never holds water, though heat output needing to be offset by air conditioning in warmer climates certainly can.

            For me, though, more heat generally means more noise; that I prefer to minimize.

            • nanoflower
            • 5 years ago

            Don’t forget the potential savings in air conditioning. For people living/working in the southern US that can be a significant cost and any savings will be noticed. Especially for a business with multiple computers.

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 5 years ago

            Let’s do the simple math.

            70 watts = 70 joules per second = 252,000 joules per hour = 239 BTUs per hour.

            If your air conditioner has an EER of 11, then it will use 239 ÷11 = 21.7 watts to run the compressor and fans to expel that 239 BTUs per hour.

            21.7 watts x 12 hours per week x 50 weeks / year x 12¢ per kW-hr = an additional $1.56 per year.

            With the updated total, your energy savings can now pay for that new CPU and motherboard in just [b<]76 years[/b<].

      • Ninjitsu
      • 5 years ago

      [quote<] For those who are were expecting a massive jump in desktop, workstation and server performance for the respectable variants are going to be disappointed. Server market will enjoy the improved power efficiency though. [/quote<] I really don't think anyone was, Broadwell's aims have been known for over a year now.

        • travbrad
        • 5 years ago

        Exactly. Even longer than that really if you consider the overall trend after Sandy Bridge of only small CPU performance improvements with reduced power consumption and improved graphics.

        On one hand I’m glad that my 2500K will seemingly last for all eternity, but on the other hand I would like to see some real performance improvements in CPUs. I know CPUs are supposedly “good enough” now, but there are still lots of games that could benefit from higher performance per core (since they apparently aren’t ever going to code for the amount of cores on an actual CPU)

        • Flying Fox
        • 5 years ago

        Then what’s all the bitching since Haswell? And threads like “what does this mad focus in mobile brings us?” (with some implied context biasing towards “desktop gaming” most likely)

          • Ninjitsu
          • 5 years ago

          I really don’t know. I guess people were expecting Sandy Bridge-like improvements every year.

          Anyway, Lenovo seems to be coming up with some pretty nice Haswell-E workstations:
          [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/8364/lenovo-announces-new-thinkstation-p-series-desktop-workstations[/url<]

      • Generic
      • 5 years ago

      “It always bothered me why ‘Moore’s Law’ is always call a law when it is nothing more than an economic observation/trend.”

      That’s what laws are, aren’t they? – observations that hold up time after time?

        • Ninjitsu
        • 5 years ago

        [quote<] That's what laws are, aren't they? - observations that hold up time after time? [/quote<] [url<]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_science[/url<] [url<]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_Law[/url<] Simply put, it could be a "law" that, do the following things during manufacturing and you'll be able to halve the area required or double the density. However, a separation of two years doesn't guarantee doubling of transistor density on it's own, hence Moore's observation is exactly that, an observation. As I mentioned elsewhere, you do don't have to work hard to make sure a law stays on track, the law implicitly ensures you conform to it. From [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_Law<]Wikipedia:[/url<] [quote<] Moore's law is the [b<]observation[/b<] that, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. ... The period is often quoted as 18 months because of Intel executive David House, who [b<]predicted[/b<] that chip performance would double every 18 months (being a combination of the effect of more transistors and their being faster). ... [b<]Although this trend has continued for more than half a century, Moore's law should be considered an observation or conjecture and not a physical or natural law.[/b<] [/quote<] So what David House said can be thought of as more of a law than Moore's Law, if you can always prove that every 18 months: "Provided transistors get faster and density increases (close to doubles), chip performance doubles".

      • Bensam123
      • 5 years ago

      Second that about Moore’s Law.

      • Stonebender
      • 5 years ago

      Well, the Intel design process is keyed in on Moore’s Law. It’s why you’ll see 10nm next year and 7nm in a couple of years.

        • Krogoth
        • 5 years ago

        Stop drinking the blue-colored kool-aid.

        Intel only has begun to produce 14nm parts en mass. 10nm is still on the drawing board/development stage. If the current trend continues it will be almost 2017 before you will see 10nm parts hitting the market.

          • Stonebender
          • 5 years ago

          Heh, I work in an Intel fab. We’re transitioning to 10nm at the end of the year.

      • itachi
      • 5 years ago

      there is still some way until we reach 1nm lol! if that is even possible and to be honest with what I heard about graphene, it’s about time we stop using silicon !

      • maxxcool
      • 5 years ago

      “”The smaller players have already seen the writing on the wall and have been trying to sell off their assets to the larger players.””

      Amd will do this as well. Haters can flame away but AMD x86 is done. 5 years or less along with Nvidia slowly exiting the desktop gpu biz for the same reasons.

    • willmore
    • 5 years ago

    That graph of the different package power levels is interesting. Notice how it comes to rest at PL1. It dosn’t *average* at PL1, it’s >= PL1. So, whatever thermal solution they have will need to have a higher capacity thatn PL1 or forget ever using PL2 and 3.

    That’s quite a change in how power use has been specified.

    • willmore
    • 5 years ago

    I keep seeing this mistake in different articles about the new Broadwell-Y chips. That underside the board shot, that’s *not* the CPU and PCH you’re seeing. That’s the 3DL’s on the back side of the processor. Take a look at the underside shot of the chip just above the MB shot. That 3DL portion is highlighted.

    The underside shot has been used misleadingly in a few articles.

    Also, an interesting takeaway is that I was right on my idea–before HSW launched–that they would not be using on chip inductors. Well, they’re chip scale inductors, but they’re not on the CPU itself, they’re external to it, but mounted on the same package/substrate.

      • Damage
      • 5 years ago

      I believe I labeled it clearly. 🙂

        • willmore
        • 5 years ago

        You captioned the photo correctly, but you have the body text:
        [quote<]Yes, this is a dual-core x86 processor with two "big cores," integrated graphics, and a companion chipset. Kind of hard to believe, isn't it?[/quote<] and that is preceded and followed by pictures of the underside of the chip. So, no, this isn't "a dual core x86 processor with two 'big cores,' integrated graphics and a companion chipset.'

          • Damage
          • 5 years ago

          Oh, just referring to Broadwell, not the tiny portion of it almost-kinda visible in the shot. Sorry for any ambiguity.

            • willmore
            • 5 years ago

            If you moved that body text up above the underside photo, all would be much clearer.

    • ronch
    • 5 years ago

    I love my FX-8350, but boy, how I wish it’s built with this process node.

    • ronch
    • 5 years ago

    [quote<]His core message: the 14-nm process provides true scaling from the prior 22-nm node, with virtually all of the traditional benefits of Moore's Law intact.[/quote<] Hear that, GF and TSMC and UMC?? You all oughta be ashamed of yourselves for using misleading nm marketing monikers!! Call it as it is!!

    • w76
    • 5 years ago

    That’s nice and all, for mobile… But if Broadwell’s entire lineup takes the same philosophy, I’ll be waiting until yet another chip comes up before replacing my 2600k. At this point, a major component might actually die and force an upgrade, something that hasn’t happened to me before, asides from a GPU I abused.

      • Flying Fox
      • 5 years ago

      Desktop computing has reached the “good enough” phase for a long time. You can tell by just looking at people who are still rocking their Core 2 Duo or Athlon/Phenom II setup’s. The XP retirement has generated a wave of “may as well buy some new hardware for a newer OS” actions, but in general most 5-year old hardware are capable of running today’s OSes.

        • UnfriendlyFire
        • 5 years ago

        There’s a growing gap between the general usage computing and the more intensive stuff such as video/photo editing and gaming.

        You can run web browsers, MS office and Windows 8 smoothly on a Core 2 if you have an SSD.

        Good luck doing the same with the latest games if you want 60 FPS. Or even 30 FPS with some games such as Planetside 2 and Arma.

        And with Civ Beyond Earth coming up… I’m betting that it’s going to be even a bigger CPU hog than Civ 5 if they made major AI enhancements.

          • Flying Fox
          • 5 years ago

          We everyday tech readers need to keep in mind while gaming is a substantial market in terms of $, but ultimately still a non-mainstream market. The majority people still buy prebuilt computers from BestBuy/Dell/Lenovo/etc. And for that market, “good enough” has been there for a long long time.

          And with cloud based video/photo editing (something like auto-awesome of Google+) and adequate tools on mobile phones (where most of these videos and photos are taken), doing them on desktop is not going to be popular to the point that everyone has to have it.

            • Airmantharp
            • 5 years ago

            All good points (this post and the above).

            Still have a Pentium 4 in use at home. Good fun that; has a modern hard drive, not even an SSD.

            But overall, Apple has shown the way; if it’s not a laptop, it’s an iMac with a nice, large screen with the resolution to provide some real-estate to work with; the other OEMs have followed suit.

            • travbrad
            • 5 years ago

            [quote<]The majority people still buy prebuilt computers from BestBuy/Dell/Lenovo/etc. And for that market, "good enough" has been there for a long long time.[/quote<] Good enough in terms of performance, not reliability. :p The amount of hardware failures on pre-built laptops/desktops that are only a few years old is pretty shocking. It does provide job security though.

      • StuG
      • 5 years ago

      The 2600k reminds me of the Q6600 in how long it has stayed relevant and competitive with what is out today. It has been hands down one of the best hardware purchases I have ever made.

        • floodo1
        • 5 years ago

        still using q6600 here 🙂

      • MadManOriginal
      • 5 years ago

      Maybe, but people continue to underestimate the power of compounding performance returns over multiple generations: a 5-10% improvement over 3 generations is a 15-33% improvement. Of course that’s per clock, and the 32nm chips did have more useful overclocking headroom by about 10% (say, 5GHz on 32nm versus 4.5GHz on 22nm for a good to very good overclock). It might not be worth upgrading, but the difference is there.

      • Horshu
      • 5 years ago

      Same boat. My 2600k is still blazing fast 2 years later, so there just isn’t pressure to upgrade. When I do, it will either be a Surface with dock or a simple Intel NUC (I’m using one as my media center, and I love it). Something small and simple, with modest power.

      • PrincipalSkinner
      • 5 years ago

      Same here. It’ll take something more to replace the 2500k @ 4.5Ghz.

    • GodsMadClown
    • 5 years ago

    Scott, I think I speak for all of us here when I ask you politely to find out if ARM can really whip the llama’s ass. You and your staff also hereby directed to employ at least one instance of llama related humor in reviewing any future broadwell-m hardware.

      • FireGryphon
      • 5 years ago

      This post is full of win[sub<]amp[/sub<]

    • UnfriendlyFire
    • 5 years ago

    Still going to have to buy a laptop before college starts. 😛

    If laptop Broadwell comes out during 2015 spring… I’m curious to see how it will perform against Carrizo (assuming that is introduced during the summer and not delayed excessively).

    • Ushio01
    • 5 years ago

    Poor Intel they’ve spent billions to get into the high end mobile space just in time for it’s collapse.

    Tablets are now mostly $200 or less toys for kids and people’s phones are good enough if Samsung’s sales fall is any indication.

    The only exception in both markets is Apple but with them designing their own chips I doubt they’re going to jump into Intel’s arms anytime soon.

      • hubick
      • 5 years ago

      I think tablets will always exist. Chips will be needed for generations to come. I think, at this point, they’re just attempting to secure themselves a long-term future in manufacturing for that space?

        • superjawes
        • 5 years ago

        The big problem with tablets right now is that the apps are still getting developed. I think we’ve got a good gaming or “fun” environment (hence the early bubble), but we could still benefit from better systems for productivity.

        What I hope to see is waiters using tablets to take orders (sending them straight from table to kitchen) and presenters doing real-time annotations. Those are a couple of simple areas that would do well from a little love. We also should see some better convertible devices every year to combine tablet features (when you need them) with laptop features (for “real” productivity).

        Oh, and better manufacturing will benefit desktop machines, too. Lower power, higher efficiency, and faster speeds are good for desktops even if Intel are focusing on mobile devices for now.

        • oldDummy
        • 5 years ago

        +1
        My belief:
        Tablets of various sizes for more business tasks.
        Phones are the new PC and we are in the midst of that revolution. Don’t know enough about 10 nm but ….

      • chuckula
      • 5 years ago

      [quote<]Poor Intel they've spent billions to get into the high end mobile space just in time for it's collapse. [/quote<] Who do you think is going to be in real trouble... Intel, who makes billions of dollars in other markets already, or Qualcomm, who is now in a race to the bottom with Allwinner & friends?

    • Anovoca
    • 5 years ago

    This new Intel is pretty exciting for more than just tablet tech. Remove the screen and related hardware and drop in an 800m series nvidia chip, add VESA bracketing, add a mall amount of girth for airflow and more I/O room, and we could have a whole new line of contenders in the HTPC market. Likely, this approach won’t touch the performance of Micro-ITX, but for the consumer looking for low cost and low profile option, the new Intel M-core chip could be a fantastic product for video/game streaming computers.

    • hubick
    • 5 years ago

    My biggest complaint about my current Nexus 10 is that it’s performance can really get sluggish at times.

    And, sure, the 10″ screen has an incredibly high DPI, but I still miss the larger 12″ screen from my previous ASUS EP121 tablet (though I certainly don’t miss Windows).

    I’d love a high performance 12.5″ Android tablet with one of these chips!

    • chuckula
    • 5 years ago

    [quote<]Despite the delays, then, Intel is bullish about its process tech advancements and confident that its 14-nm technology is ready to roll. Natarajan says the company is now shipping 14-nm production chips to its customers, and the first Core M-based products should arrive on store shelves in time for this year's holiday season. [/quote<] SHA-ZAAM

      • jdaven
      • 5 years ago

      I don’t why you are so happy. They said the exact same thing during last IDF. What’s changed?

      • LaChupacabra
      • 5 years ago

      Weather inadvertently or intentionally, I will now forever believe Broadwell-Y processors will support a new and magical sounding hash.

        • weaktoss
        • 5 years ago

        I thought the exact same thing. That misleading hyphen…

    • DPete27
    • 5 years ago

    How many watts does an average tablet/laptop screen draw?

      • EJ257
      • 5 years ago

      Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 – 3.4 watts
      iPad Air – 4.8 watts
      Nexus 10 – 5.7 watts

      Go down to display power consumption:
      [url=http://www.displaymate.com/Tablet_ShootOut_3.htm<]http://www.displaymate.com/Tablet_ShootOut_3.htm[/url<]

    • Aliasundercover
    • 5 years ago

    What Intel giveth Microsoft taketh away. Now in tablets!

      • Wirko
      • 5 years ago

      There’s a whole ecosystem of parasitic laws that feed on Moore’s law.

      [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wirth%27s_law[/url<]

        • UnfriendlyFire
        • 5 years ago

        At least we get to use Python instead of assembly coding, right?

    • ish718
    • 5 years ago

    1st

      • Takeshi7
      • 5 years ago

      Can TR edit their ToS to ban people who post this?

        • Krogoth
        • 5 years ago

        Such anger over a first post
        Much frustration
        Wow

        • ish718
        • 5 years ago

        35+ people are mad they didn’t get the first post..lol

      • ronch
      • 5 years ago

      Wow, in fairness to you, you seem to have beaten MadManOriginal in using ‘1st’ instead of ‘First’. I thought you were always at the leading-edge around here, MMO? So from now on, you gotta pay royalties to this fine gentleman here if you wanna copy his innovashun.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 5 years ago

        Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

      • PrincipalSkinner
      • 5 years ago

      Has no effect unless it’s in daily shortbread.

      • tfp
      • 5 years ago

      74th [/Boom]

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