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Fourth generation Intel Core preview: all about Haswell

Preview of Intel's fourth generation Core processors

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Introduction

It's official now, on June 4 Intel launches the fourth generation Core processors, also called Haswell. We published an extensive preview last year, and now we've updated it with lots of new information that came out since. That includes the complete list of upcoming desktop processors, information about the corresponding motherboard chipsets and even a glance at the first performance benchmarks. 


Intel's familiar tick-tock business strategy keeps on rolling, and Haswell is the next step. When the Core architecture was originally launched along with the Core 2 Duo processors, Intel announced it would release a new product each year. If it released a new architecture one year (tock), the next would see the launch of a new manufacturing process (tick).

While the interval between launches is a bit longer than a year now - about 14 months - the underlying strategy is still there. The most recent introduction were the Ivy Bridge processors on April 23 of this year. This was a so-called "tick", a transition to smaller, 22nm transistors. The architecture of Ivy Bridge is therefore based on the previous generation Sandy Bridge processors, so the performance differences are relatively small.

The next generation will be a "tock", a new architecture based on an existing production process. These are generally the more interesting of the two, as the performance increase is usually quite significant. The fourth generation Intel Core appears to be primarily focused on power consumptions and efficiency. That's not surprising considering laptops and other mobile devices are a bigger market than desktops. Haswell will fit into much thinner Ultrabooks and tablets than current Ivy Bridge processors are able to.

No details have been revealed about the exact level of performance that's expected from the new CPU, but Intel claimed during last year's Developer Forum it will be comparable to the performance increase seen with previous tocks (Sandy Bridge and Nehalem). The first leaked benchmarks have dampened the enthusiasm somewhat, but we'll get to that a bit later.

Intel has unveiled quite a bit about the architecture, however, and it looks promising.


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