Haswell, Broadwell, Skylake: Intel Busy Pushing Out Chips

Carl Weinschenk
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Comparisons of chipsets can be difficult for an outsider to follow. The topic has a nomenclature all its own, and experts tend to delve into it in ways that are inaccessible.

It’s still important to pay attention, however. A mobile or desktop device’s chipset dictates its performance. During the past few months, Intel has introduced the Broadwell chips, and the Skylake is just ahead. These chips are meant to better the performance of the previous family of chips, which go under the name Haswell.

Ashraf Eassa at The Motley Fool says that Intel claims a doubling of the performance per watt between the Haswell and Broadwell generations of chips. He and others, however, say that it is difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison due to the other variables at play. More accurate comparisons, however, are becoming possible. Eassa outlines a test conducted by Legit Reviews, which used both chips in devices running HandBrake multiplatform video transcoder software.

The comparison, which featured the Broadwell i7-5775C, illustrates the improvement Intel has made:

According to the results, the 5775C delivered 0.449 units of performance per watt of power consumed. The prior-generation Haswell 4770K delivered 0.297 and the Haswell Refresh 4790K came in at 0.273. If we compare the 5775C to the 4770K (the more efficient of the high-end Haswell chips), the Broadwell chip is 51% more efficient than the prior-generation Haswell chip.

This week, Network World’s Executive Editor Gordon Mah Ung also offered a comparison of Broadwell and Haswell. His is particularly useful because he found a laptop – the Dell Latitude E5250 – that at one point shipped with both Broadwell and Haswell. Thus, the chipsets were the only variable.

Ung goes through a long list of use cases. His conclusion:

Broadwell cuts both ways. Broadwell is better than Haswell by 5 percent to 10 percent or so on a given task when the CPU models are exactly the same. Battery life is better by 10 percent or so. Graphics performance is much improved, but it’s still just integrated graphics, best suited for office dronage or low-ambition gaming.

He adds that a shopper today should go with Broadwell – but that there is no point in upgrading from a Haswell-based device.

The story on the chips at Legit Reviews has a lot of good detail. Broadwell, which is aimed for both laptops and desktops, is the first to use a 14 nanometer (nm) process, which refers to the spacing between active elements. It was released on June 2 after a year-long delay.

Skylake, the next chip from Intel, is likely to be released this summer, the story said. It also uses 14 nm technology but features other changes. Thus, writes Nathan Kirsch, device makers will have a choice of two systems. Predictions of features and early configurations of Skylake are available at sites such as Maximum PC and TechFrag. The rumor is that the launch will come at the Gamescom show, which starts on August 5 in Cologne, Germany.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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