Intel's i7 4770K Previewed

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Intel's i7 4770K Previewed

Haswell gets partially unveiled - we look at the results.

The tech world has been given the occasional, brief glimpse of how the CPU landscape will look after the mid-year release of Haswell. Now with a single leak and a whole lot of testing by our friends over at Tomshardware, we have gotten a pretty definite view of the next gen Haswell processor.

This is a chip that Intel wants to place everywhere - a CPU tailored towards everything from energy-saving tablets to power-sucking servers. As such Haswell, which will be replacing Ivy Bridge as the latest i3/i5/i7 in traditional desktop/laptop markets, is Big Blue's most important release since Core 2 debuted seven years ago. The future is mobile and the present increasinly futuristic. Haswell will still debut in desktops and then laptops, this being as much to give Intel more time to tweak its A-list Core architecture for a successful foray into low-power tablet land, as it is to please enthusiasts.

Haswell has also been slowly revealed as ramping up Intel's love of artificial 'differentiation' between models. As with Ivy Bridge only the i7 4770K and i5 4670K processors will overclock more than a few percent, but the newer K series also appears to have had 'TSX' capabilities trimmed, deliberately hampering multi-threaded performance. Desktop processors will also have their graphics performance lowered - unless the consumer buys a 'BGA' chip; one soldered on to a prepackaged  motherboard.

The future direction of this is either for only every other processor released to have a socketed version (the 2015 Skylake would thus be the next socketed design) or for all future Intel chips to be released solely on BGA, soldered permanently into their unupgradable places. 

Performance:

Either way, Tomshardware managed to get their paws on the top model of what will seems set to the last socketed i7 for at least a while . Their i7 4770K Engineering Sample gives us a huge insight into performance. While overclocking was off the cards, and there's the usual raft of 'this is an ES' and 'the BIOS is early' dislaimers, their results show an impressive chip.

 

 (Click above to Expand | source: Tomshardware)

In terms of the old-fashioned 'CPU' bit, clock speeds are unchanged and performance per MHz is 5-15% better than Ivy Bridge; a decent, if not earth shattering improvement. Haswell CPUs alsoi deliver 16 channels of PCIe 3.0 and two channels of DDR3, while the Z87 chipset adds in its six (reportedly bugged) native USB 3.0 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports and eight PCIe 2.0 lanes.

All desktop variants use the 'GT2' graphics chip, which gives a slight boost (10-30%, game dependant) on Ivy-Bridge's performance. This is a lot less grunt than the GT3 variant found in upcoming BGA desktop parts, with half the number of cores and no dedicated on-core memory. Based on that, we can tell that mobile Haswell parts will peform somewhere significantly above their current AMD counterparts and further bolster APU gaming.

All in all then, Haswell is turning out to be even less surprising than Ivy Bridge; it is the very definition of evolutionary. The only twists are in Intel's slowly tightening grip around the throat of the x86 processor market, as top-end competition from AMD becomes a distant memory. With all that having been said, Haswell looks to be a fine chip and if you need the power it should be available with (or even in) a shiny new LGA-1150 socket motherboard early June.

Just... is anyone else uncomfortable with where this is headed?

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