Intel is almost at the ready for a slew of new processors to be fed into the consumer market, but they aren’t the ones you were probably hoping for – instead these processors are still based on the Haswell architecture. They still use regular thermal paste under the heatspreader. Clock speeds are still mostly the same. There won’t even be any new features on the CPUs themselves, although the new 9-series motherboard chipsets will pack in some interesting storage options. Intel should be shipping the “refreshed” processors this week with availability in mid-May 2014.
Just for a quick refresher, Haswell is Intel’s new architecture that debuted in 2013 on socket LGA1150. It still very closely resembles the design of the Ivy Bridge family, retains support for DDR3-1600 memory and it’s also based on the 22nm tri-gate production process (closer in reality to a 26nm process, but calling it 22nm is still valid). The difference here is that Intel has spent much of the transistor budget on beefing up the graphics and making some improvements to IPC and to dedicated execution units within the processor. There’s also an integrated VRM, which allows Intel greater and more granular control over power consumption and usage.
Overall, the changes mean that while performance isn’t that impressive compared to Ivy Bridge, it’s a lot easier to run the chip at boost frequencies and the CPU races back into an idle state that much faster. The Haswell refresh won’t change this at all, Intel will merely begin selling replacement chips that are binned for higher frequency and/or lower TDPs and better leakage. If you want something new, that’s what the LGA2011-3 Haswell-E with DDR4 platform is for!
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There’s not a lot of interesting stuff happening at the top of the top of the chain, to be honest. Intel is going all-out with the binning process, milking any processor that doesn’t reach the Core i7-4790’s heights as a S or T variant as well as the oddball Core i7-4785T, which will likely ship with a 45W TDP and probably a boost speed of 3.2GHz, although Intel has not confirmed boost clocks yet. Moving down the line Intel aims to use clock speed as much as possible to differentiate their lineup and the Core i5 sees no less than 10 variants, not including mobile versions of the same processor.
The best bargain here is the Core i5-4570S. It’ll sip less power overall than the Core i5-4590 it’s based on, but will probably achieve the same boost speed. Haswell was the first family to not offer a chip that falls in the Core i5 class but only has two hyper-threaded cores and this is continued here, with all Core i5 processors having four physical cores and 6MB of L3 cache.
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At the low-end of the scale, the Core i3 and Pentium processors are what most budget gamers are going to be using on their builds and there’s a lot of choices for different budgets here. The Core i3-4360 has the highest base clock of any of the Haswell processors here and it’s also the first Core i3 chip to reach 3.7GHz out of the box. This isn’t an indication of better production processes by any means because all Intel’s doing here is applying a 100MHz upclock on all models and selling them for the same price. Oh the joys of locked processors.
For budget gamers, the Pentium G3450 will offer great value for money and should still run most games well, but that also applies to its predecessor, the G3430. Either way, the only option for gamers on the low and mid-range budgets remains Haswell, because Broadwell will not launch in these price points for another year.