After several uncontrolled leaks, some controlled leaks and lots of anticipation, Intel officially releases their Haswell platform to public. Last year, Intel released 22nm Ivy Bridge and today’s Haswell is also based on the same 22nm manufacturing process. It is very similar to Ivy Bridge yet it is so different. It is basically designed with mobile-first approach in mind so desktop users will be not very pleased by the amount of improvements they’ll see. However, on the other hand, Haswell is kind of a dream platform for notebooks, ultrabooks and other small form factors.
Looking at Haswell architecture on high-level, there aren’t many improvements on the CPU side apart from the fact that Intel considerably increased the number of data structure and buffers inside the CPU providing even more power for parallel execution of commands.
Real improvements are made in power consumption, idle states and integrated graphics performance. To begin with, transition between different power states is way quicker now which considerably enhances the overall power management. Desktop will not benefit much from this but we’ll definitely see better performance per watt ratios. Secondly, Haswell also comes with voltage controller on chip which is called as Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator or FIVR by Intel. Putting the voltage regulator on the die gives Intel a lot more control over the power profiles and with increased number of voltage rails, the FIVR has more fine control over the voltage. This also decreases the overall cost and space consumption for motherboard manufacturers. It might not make a considerable difference in desktop market but in mobile devices, it’ll make quite a lot of difference.
Integrated graphics performance is where Haswell really shows its charm. Intel has put a lot of work into graphics part of the new platform. There aren’t any major architectural improvements in GPUs of Haswell as compared to Ivy Bridge but Intel dramatically improved the die area allocated to the graphics. In an attempt to differentiate between different levels of graphics in different Haswell SKUs, Intel also brought new naming scheme. GT1 graphics are now simply known as Intel HD graphics, GT2 is HD 4200/4400/4600, GT3 at or below 1.1GHz is called HD 5000 and GT3 capable of hitting 1.3GHz is called Iris 5100. And finally GT3e (which is basically GT3 with embedded DRAM) is called Iris Pro 5200.