So Tom’s Hardware got an exclusive peak at the performance of Intel’s highest-SKU Core i7 chip from the Haswell family, the Core i7-4770K. It doesn’t carry the Haswell GT3 graphics core because that’s destined for the notebook market, but the amount of improvements made to Haswell certainly will make make it an enticing upgrade for those of you still on the Core 2 family or stuck with Nehalem builds. Haswell brings nothing new for owners of Sandy and Ivy Bridge chips in terms of all-round performance, but there are some impressive gains in a few areas.

haswell core lineup

Part of the problem I have with Haswell, on the outset, is now we have definite confirmation that the new GT3 graphics core, which Intel previewed at CES earlier this year, won’t be coming to the desktop with a socketed option. Whatever chip ships with the GT3 chip will also be only available in a BGA package, stuck into a board with the new Lynx Point chipset (probably Z87). Those of you hoping to test out the GT3 core will have to sink in a lot of cash for a platform that’s stifled from birth. BGA platforms have traditionally never overclocked very well either, so this might be the end of that too. The GT2 graphics core is what we’re going to be treated with on the desktop in socketed form and it is an improvement over the current generation, if only by small percentages.

Clock speeds stay largely unchanged but rather strangely, TDPs actually go a little up for the high-end lineup, while GPU clocks stay within the 1.1 to 1.25GHz range. Turbo bins are smaller for some chips and it looks like there will be one or two bargains for those of you who prefer to choose locked CPUs and max out the Turbo boost defaults – the i5-4570S gives you the biggest boost from stock speeds and you can bet Intel will intentionally limit stocks of that chip. The i5-4570T looks like a similarly good option, but it will probably be the basis of the next Core i3-4320, going by the fact that it’s a dual-core with limited boost speeds. That 35W TDP is impressive, though.

Varied gains with OpenCL…

photoshop sandra-gp-cryptography winzipluxmark

With the Synthetic and real-world OpenCL tests, though, GT2 shows that it’s massively better in some areas, but in others it only commands a lead by a few percent. Photoshop shows some improvement, but not by much. The Sandra cryptography bench represents the way in which Intel has begun to intentionally sandbag performance between CPU generations – there the Sandy Bridge chips run much better when using SHA instead of AES, but Haswell accelerates AES encryption very well, to the point where it’s more than twice as fast. Although this will be application-dependant, I can see some corporations and even power users taking advantage of this. Its generally better than Ivy Bridge, but Sandy still leads in some areas.

Clock-for-clock it’s faster than Ivy

blender lame visual-studio

In some respects, it’s only minimally faster than Ivy Bridge. The Lame encoding benchmarks show that in single-thread applications, the improvements are small and more related to a few tweaks for things like Turbo Boost and power management. Blender shows the same issue although Haswell is closing the performance gap to Sandy Bridge-E , only being around 23% slower than the six-core brute. If Intel had to add another two cores to Haswell they’d have to drop the graphics portion, but it would probably nail this bench with ease. That’s reinforced by the astounding result in the Visual Studio compile bench. Haswell chops just under three minutes off the compile time compared to Ivy Bridge, bringing it within three minutes of the i7-3970X’s time. However, you can bet this means that there won’t be an appreciable difference in games with a discrete graphics chip.

The GT2 graphics does quite well, though…

dirt hitman skyrim wow

Man, does it ever. While Tom’s provides no in-depth details on the GT2 graphics core, it does really well in comparison with its siblings, if only by small margins at 1080p. Boasting an extra four execution units compared to the 16 that were in HD4000, it’s enough to push it over the edge of playability and into the same territory that AMD’s APU usually rules. It doesn’t break a sweat in DiRT Showdown at the lower resolution and might even be playable at the resolution with high settings. Considering that DiRT3 was used for the Haswell GT3 demo at CES and was running at 1080p with high settings, this is a remarkable feat. It doesn’t do very well in Hitman: Absolution but I never expected it to anyway.

Skyrim and World of Warcraft are mostly CPU-limited these days, but that doesn’t stop GT2 from taking the top spot in both benchmarks. Again, it’s not by much and its certainly not as astounding as the DiRT results, but it’s good to see some progreess. I’m assuming that part of Tom’s agreement with Intel was that it didn’t include AMD’s results on the same graphs, so instead they add some text in at the bottom for each result. Regardless of how much GT2 may improve on HD4000, it’s noted that AMD is consistently ahead at 1080p in every benchmark, with a chip that costs half the price of the i7-3770K, no less.

In all other respects, Haswell is only a minor upgrade for most. It adds proper SLI and Crossfire support with PCI-E 3.0 splitting to two x8 slots in most boards, it has more SATA 6GB/s ports and still keeps dual-channel DDR3-1600 compatibility, although now most boards now top out at support for 64GB of RAM. Most of the benefits Haswell brings won’t even affect most of you on the desktop – its at the other end of the scale, with mobile units like laptops and x86 tablets that benefit the most here. New energy-saving mechanisms and more aggresive profile switching is what’s going to improve battery life the most and Haswell makes efficiency its main aim.

If you’re still on a Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad-era setup, this is where you want to put your money. Ivy Bridge may get cheaper as stocks are filtered out at sale prices, but its a dead-end platform right now. LGA1150 is your best bet for any sort of future-proofing. Although Tom’s tested an engineering sample which isn’t close to the final product yet (using slower RAM speeds for stability, etcetera), it’s good to see some improvement from Intel, even if it may not be in the places everyone expects.

Source: Tom’s Hardware

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