Intel talks up new processor releases and celebrates an anniversary

Dave James at

After having tried to make me care about all-in-one PCs at GDC (sorry guys, I just can’t), Intel have announced a bunch of new processor toys that are on their way either this year or next. From Haswell, to Broadwell, to Haswell-E, we’re looking at a raft of new chips for our machines.

First up we’ll be seeing a bunch of new Haswell parts, code-named Devil’s Canyon. They’ll be slightly higher-clocked versions of the parts we’ve already got - so expect maybe an extra 100MHz on top of the K-series chips.

Intel is confident they’ll be much better overclockers than their predecessors, thanks to some improved thermal interface material sticking the heatspreader to the actual silicon. I swear they only use the word ‘material’ so they can roll out the TIM acronym any time they can.

When the Haswell parts first surfaced, showing weaker OC performance compared with the previous generation of chips, many tweakers blamed the ineffectual TIM for the poor performance. This led to people ‘de-lidding’ their chips - removing the metal surface to get access directly to the CPU silicon and add in different TIM.

We’ll start to see these new Devil’s Canyon chips in the middle of this year; I’d anticipate them tipping up at the start of Computex in June, if not before. With that will be the new 9-series chipset and the new Z97 motherboards.

Those new boards will also be compatible with the first 14nm Broadwell chips that will likely surface in 2015. Intel gave a sneak peek about that new architecture, explaining that they’ll be the first socketed desktop parts to include the top-end Iris Pro graphics cores.

Iris Pro will likely be limited to the K-series chips though, which is a bit of a shame. I can see more of a case for having the fastest GPU components in the lower-end parts which are less likely to be paired with a discrete graphics card.

But still, the confirmation that Broadwell will definitely be a socketed part is a welcome one, with all the rumours of it being soldered into the motherboards.

It's only wafer thin

Intel’s ‘first’ 8 core chip

Around the same time as the San Francisco Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in September, we’ll see Intel’s first, consumer-oriented, eight-core desktop part. The new Haswell E Extreme edition processors will have a top-end eight-core, sixteen-thread CPU. That’s going to be one supremely powerful, $1,000 processor, but it’s tough to get too excited about it when the previous Sandy Bridge E chips were also eight-core CPUs.

The previous i7 3960X chips were just eight-core Xeons, and they’re from a couple of generations ago. Unfortunately Intel had chosen to disable a pair of those cores, or used chips that didn’t pass validation tests, and so only six of them were available. You could buy an Intel Xeon E5-2687W with the full complement and jam it into an X79 desktop board, well if you had a spare £1,500.

The point is Intel have had eight-core chips, and even let you buy broken versions of them, for years.

So what about this anniversary then?

Well, Intel are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their Pentium brand by releasing a special edition K-series version. Intel says it’s in response to requests for a low-end overclocking chip.

Those requests have been coming since Intel chose to lock down the multipliers, to stop people buying low-end chips and overclocking them…

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They’re going to be based on the Haswell microarchitecture and so will be compatible with any 8 or upcoming 9-series motherboard. We ought to see the silicon at the same time as the Haswell refresh in the middle of the year.

As much as it rankles that Intel stopped letting us overclock low-end chips as well as high, this new Pentium could be a rather interesting processor, especially for us gamers. We don’t need desperately high CPU performance to get the most from our graphics cards, and if it’s anything like being able to boost a quad-thread i3 up to 4.6GHz then I’m sold.

It could well be a winner for the budget crowd and hit AMD’s more price-sensitive processors in their sensitive parts.