Intel has confirmed plans to release an ultra-low power processor in its Haswell fourth-generation Core family, boasting a 4.5W power draw and targeting fanless convertible devices and tablets.
Intel's upcoming low-power Haswell chip boasts a 4.5W scenario design power (SDP,) but the company is silent on specifications and full TDP.
Based around a new microarchitecture, Haswell-based Core processors offer several improvements over their Ivy Bridge counterparts in the fields of performance and power-saving. While these make surprising little difference at the high-end, as our review demonstrates
, at the lower end they can make a real impact - and have become central to Intel's battle against Cambridge-based rival ARM in the mobile sector.
Accordingly, Intel has confirmed that it is to launch a Core-branded Haswell part in the second half of this year, aimed directly at convertibles and tablets. The key feature, the company has claimed, is that the new chip will allow for fanless designs - critical to creating slim and light devices that can truly compete with those based around ARM's architecture.
Sadly, the company is being somewhat reticent to release firm details surrounding the part. It hasn't confirmed clock speed or the number of cores, for example, and while it's possible to guess that the processor will be based around a dual-core design it would be exactly that - a guess. What the company has offered is a power draw claim of just 4.5W - a not-inconsiderable saving over the company's current lowest-power Haswell part at 6W.
There's a catch, however: in recent releases, Intel has moved away from the traditional metric of thermal design profile (TDP) to something it calls scenario design power or, sometimes, scenario-driven power (SDP.) While the former offers a figure for peak heat output - critical for designing cooling systems that can cope with sustained load - the latter merely offers an 'average' figure for 'typical' workloads. As you might imagine, there's room for a bit of marketing in the figure: Intel has previously nearly halved a chip's TDP to reach a headline-friendly SDP, as with the Core i5-3439Y which boasts an SDP of 7W but a TDP of 13W.
As a result, and with no firm figures from Intel, it's possible to guesstimate the true TDP of the upcoming chip at somewhere in the region of 7-9W. While that's just about on the border of what can be reasonable cooled by a passive tablet design, it seems likely that if manufacturers want to avoid overheating they'll need to set tight thermal controls - potentially clocking the chip down, or disabling one of the cores, when the workload gets too heavy.
Intel has not yet set pricing or confirmed customers for the part, but claims it will be releasing the processor in the second half of the year - meaning it's possible we'll see the first retail products to use the chip on the market by the end of the year or early 2014.