Intel is widely expected to be dropping the octo-core Haswell-E bomb in September. The smart money places launch sometime around their Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, but only the most committed enthusiasts will want to put down $999 for Intel's new tech.
Ah, now this takes me back. A budget-priced, low-end Intel Pentium chip with serious overclocking headroom. This is what overclocking PC hardware used to be about—not pushing the latest $1,000 CPU to see what extra few numbers you could squeeze out of a synthetic benchmark, but cooking the clocks on a cheapo chip to get your games to actually run faster. It is a bit of a shame that it’s taken the celebration of 20 years of Pentiums to get Intel to relax it’s iron grip on the clockspeeds of any CPU outside the K-series.
The fact you can’t actually buy a K-series i3 is still a bit of a disappointment to me. But forget the politics and the marketing shenanigans, this is an awesome little budget gaming CPU that’s got a really good chance of wresting the budget market away from AMD’s bargain FX range.
Intel are set to release a slew of new processors in the second half of this year, culminating in the release of the next-generation 14nm Broadwell chips. Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich, spoke at the Maker Faire in California to guarantee that after last year's delay (due to a "defect density issue"), Broadwell CPUs would be released in time for the holidays, “and not the last second of holiday” either.
Surely it follows that with a new chipset should come new chips, right? And with Intel’s latest motherboard chipset, the Z97, having just launched promising support for both the Devil’s Canyon Haswell update and the next-gen Broadwell die-shrink, it’s hugely disappointing not to be sat here extolling the virtues of some fine new processors too.
But what can the new Z97 chipset offer in this first Republic of Gamers board from Asus? Well, to be fair to them quite a lot, but very little of it is actually related to Intel’s latest chipset. Right now these Z97 boards are going to live or die by their feature sets, and in typical RoG fashion Asus has thrown not just the kitchen sink, but an entire Magnet showroom at the Hero.
Asus have blinked first on the new 9-series motherboard launch, and their Z97-A is the first of the new boards to arrive in the labs. These new mobos are appearing in preparation for the launch of a slew of updated Intel processors, offering some key new features. The Asus Z97-A is one of their mid-range offerings, and should offer decent price/performance numbers.
In the fast-paced world of the gaming PC, you might think that a PC with a spec that’s almost a year old would be starting to show some serious signs of age. You may expect the demands of modern game engines would make the ol’ processor creak and complain while the ageing graphics card wheezily rants about the youth-of-today, their terrible grammar and their oddly tight-fitting clothes.
But no, here I am testing out this here machine from Palicomp, with effectively a year-old spec, and it’s right up there with the best gaming PCs around.
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.
Crucial have unveiled their new M550 series of SSDs, hot on the heels of Intel’s SSD 730 drives. These are the first new SSDs of the year, and represent two of the big boys in SSD manufacturing.
Crucial’s M550 is an update to their incredibly successful M500 series, and as such still retains the same commitment to performance and pricing. The M550 drives are competitive with the top SSDs on both of these fronts.
Crucial are using a slightly revised Marvell memory controller in their new drive, along with parent-company Micron’s 20nm NAND Flash to provide the storage. The M550 range comes with a little more space than their M500 counterparts, shifting from 480GB to 512GB, and from 960GB to a full 1TB for the relevant drives.
Last month I sat in front of new Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich, as he held up ‘working’ Broadwell silicon on stage at the Intel Developer Forum. I even saw one running in a test system, zipping through CPU benchmarker’s friend, Cinebench. Yesterday, though, he announced during a briefing call about Intel's latest financial results that they would be delaying the production of Broadwell chips until the first quarter of next year. We were then expecting to see Broadwell products knocking around next Spring, but with this slip in production it’s likely to be the Summer of 2014 at the earliest.
Even as Valve is trying to ease access to PC gaming in the living room, its plans for the Steam Machine won't be held up by an adherence to a single manufacturer of graphics hardware. The proposed SteamOS-based systems will support a variety of graphics builds with GPUs from AMD, Intel, and Nvidia when they launch next year, according to a report at Maximum PC.
Intel showed off the performance gains you can get with SSD overclocking at this year’s IDF in San Francisco, but then admitted it was still very much a work in progress.
A few weeks back it was revealed they would be showing it off in an overclocking session and some enterprising chaps went digging around in Intel’s Extreme Tweaking Utility and uncovered code relating to it. Unfortunately in the end we were only given a very quick demonstration of the possibilities of SSD overclocking, but I had the chance to chat with Dan Ragland, one of Intel’s Senior Systems Engineers, afterwards.
So I’m a bad PC gamer, I bought GTA 5 on an inferior platform. But all I’ve been able to think as I play through this mammoth slice of open-world gaming is just how amazing it’s going to look when we get it on the PC. The folk at Intel seem pretty positive about GTA 5’s chances coming our way. At the Intel Developer Forum, I sat down with Chris R. Silva, the Director of Marketing for Intel’s Premium Notebooks and inevitably our chat ended up on the subject of how damaging it could be for this former PC IP not to hit our gaming rigs.
“I think it hurt Halo overall,” he said in reference to Microsoft’s failed attempts to at first keep it console-exclusive and then poorly porting to the PC. “At least with Grand Theft Auto I don’t think it’ll be console exclusive very long. But that’s what happens when you have a brand new launch with two companies that have lots of money trying to make sure they have content.”
The successor to Intel's Haswell CPU technology, "Broadwell", has been revealed and shown working here at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. The chip is built using a whole new production process that shrinks Haswell's 22nm transistors down to 14nm. That is tiny.
As you can see from the side-by-side comparison between the low-power Haswell and Broadwell systems-on-a-chip (SoC) in the picture above, there's a big difference in actual size, and because Intel are using their very latest production methods on this new CPU it also should be a good deal less power-hungry than it's older brother.
Yes, yes, I know the Win 8 Surface Pro already showed off the fact you can run Team Fortress 2 on a tablet without wanting to scratch your own eyes out, but they're hot, heavy, expensive bits of kit. But here I am playing with a standard Windows 8 tablet, with a smaller form factor and a much, much higher res screen – who would have thought it could do the job just as well? And with around an eight hour battery life?
I've ventured far from the leafy, West Country home of PC Gamer in England to the foggy, Pacific shores of San Francisco for the annual Intel Developer Forum. It started properly on Tuesday, but before that I left the bay and headed over to Intel's offices in Santa Clara just down the road to get a load of the new Atom processor they launched today, code-named Bay Trail.
Yes, you read that right, our solid state drives are set to be the next battleground in the world of overclocking. It has been announced that, as part of an overclocking seminar at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) today, that Intel will go into detail, and demonstrate, overclocking SSD technology. Intel are trying to woo back the enthusiast crowd with new extreme CPUs running on the existing X79 platform - stay tuned for that one, folks - now they’re also looking at other areas they can use to inspire serial tweakers.
Integrated GPUs, processor GPUs, call them what you will, generally those relatively weak graphics components are ignored by PC gamers concerned with high performance, but in the world of laptops, that could be about to change. Last week saw me briefly ensconced inside Intel UK’s Swindon HQ, with a couple of Iris Pro-based laptops for company. They represent the top of Intel’s processor graphics tree and deliver practically current-gen console performance in an Ultrabook-esque form factor.
Inside the surprisingly svelte new Clevo chassis lies the 4th Gen Core i7-4750HQ, running at 2GHz, with the ability to hit 3.2GHz on power-hungry Turbo mode. The important thing though is that this chip is housing the new Iris Pro Intel graphics, so that’s the full 40 execution unit set-up with an added 128MB eDRAM.
Good lord, that’s a striking mobo. It’s also a pretty impressively performing board too, built for the new generation of processor from Intel, the 4th Generation Core architecture, previously code-named Haswell. It’s also one of the first boards I’ve looked at outside of the expensive Intel own brand mobo that was shipped me with the inaugural i7 Haswell review CPU.
The most obvious thing about this board is its micro ATX form factor, but don’t for one second think that has an impact on the performance you can get out of this mean, grean motherboard. It may be small, but don’t let that fool you - it was able to keep pace with a similarly impressive, full-size Asus Z87-Pro board.
We’ve known AMD are the go-to guys for next-gen console silicon for a good while now. The tech press has been speculating since the consoles’ specs were first announced as to how the PC could benefit from Sony and Microsoft opting for the x86, and specifically AMD, architecture. After all the Xbox 360 was running AMD graphics hardware and, from my perspective, the benefits to the PC from that relationship are pretty intangible at best. There are signs that things may be different this time around.
"The consoles are really the target for a lot of the game developers, if it’s a Radeon heart powering that console, like the PS4 or Xbox 360, that means these games devs are going to be designing their games, designing their features and really optimising for that Radeon heart" said AMD's Devon Nekechuk around the launch of the Radeon HD 7990. But why, specifically, will that be the case? I asked AMD's worldwide manager of ISV gaming engineering, Nicolas Thibieroz for the nitty gritty.
Intel are heralding their new Haswell processor architecture as a game-changer for gaming ultrabooks and small form factor gaming machines. Their competitors AMD predictably have serious doubts about Intel’s ability to compete when it comes to PC gaming.
I spoke with Intel’s Richard Huddy a few months back about the graphical technology behind their push for Haswell in the gaming market and he was very excited about the progress they were making for PC gamers, but I also put some questions to AMD’s Nicholas Thiebierroz, Senior Manager of its Gaming Engineering division. I’m sure it’s no coincidence I’ve only just heard back as Haswell is launched. Here's what he said about Intel's latest foray into the world of gaming hardware and what the next generation of consoles, which run on AMD architecture, will mean for PC gamers.
So yeah, Intel’s 4th Generation Core architecture, known to you and I as Haswell, has finally landed and with it the new processor for your next gaming PC has surely arrived. Hasn’t it? Well, if your next gaming PC is going to be a laptop then that’s probably a rather effusive yes.
If you’re a desktop gamer looking for more processing grunt and some hefty overclocking prowess from this stellar new architecture, however, you’re probably going to be rather disappointed.