Intel's Haswell-Y promises PC performance in tablets

Intel's Haswell-Y promises PC performance in tablets

Summary: The latest Y Series processors use so little power that they are now a viable option for fanless tablets and 2-in-1 devices. HP is the first to announce a 2-in-1 with the latest Haswell-Y chip, but will others follow?

Haswell-Y Header

Lately Intel has been focused on its Atom processor and tablets, but there’s another new chip in its family that could prove to be equally important. The latest Haswell-Y processors use so little power that they are now a viable option for tablets and 2-in-1 devices.

The focus on power efficiency in Core processors is nothing new. Even before laptop shipments eclipsed desktops for the first time five years ago, Intel began working on power and it has long offered a line of low-voltage Core processors--typically rated at around 15 watts compared with 37 watts for standard notebook chips.

At the beginning of the year, Intel announced a new Y Series of ultra low-voltage processors starting with third-generation Ivy Bridge chips that were rated at a maximum 13 watts, but used as little as 7 watts in typical tablet usage scenarios (something Intel calls Scenario Design Power or SDP). Later in the year it rolled out an updated fourth-generation Haswell-Y family shrinking the SDP down to 6 watts with a maximum power rating of 11.5 watts.The latest batch, which Intel announced in July but is only now becoming available, use only 4.5 watts (though they are still rated at 11.5 watts on certain notebook workloads).

That might not sound like a huge difference. But it is significant because it means that Core processors can be used, for the first time, in 2-in-1 devices and tablets that do not need a fan for cooling. That means thinner, lighter and quieter devices--with performance comparable to a PC, but with battery life that is more like a tablet.

So far there are three of these 4.5-watt Haswell-Y dual-cores (four threads). The entry-level Core i3-4012Y has a base frequency of 1.5GHz and does not support turbo mode. The Core i5-4202Y and the i5-4302Y are similar--both have a base frequency of 1.6GHz though the 4302Y can turbo slightly higher--but the latter also supports Intel’s vPro, a set of features for businesses.

The next-generation Broadwell processor, which is manufactured on a more advanced process and also due out next year, should push power and performance per watt even further. At the INtel Developer Forum earlier this month, the company showed a slide indicating that the next-generation Y Series will bring the total system power-including component ts such as the display, memory and SSD--down to around 10 watts on fairly intensive tasks.


Last week announced the first 2-in-1 Ultrabook that will use the latest Haswell-Y processors. The Spectre x2 is a detachable with a 13.3-inch 1920x1080 tablet that weighs 2.1 pounds and a keyboard with two USB 3.0 slots HDMI and an SD card slot that brings the total system weight to 4.3 pounds.It will be available in October strating at $1,100.

[My colleague, Sean Portnoy, has posted more details on HP’s announcements last week.]

Beyond that Haswell-Y hasn’t seen wide adoption yet, which is puzzling since it seems like a good option for 2-in-1 devices. The new Surface Pro 2, which Microsoft announced today, would seem to be a great fit for the Core i5-4302Y, for example, but the company instead chose the 15-watt i5-4200U, which offers better performance and still claims to deliver good battery life. It’s hard to tell whether this is because of limited availability of Haswell-Y or other issues such as cost or the board area required. Hardware companies may also be waiting until next year when Microsoft will reportedly release a 64-bit version of Windows 8 that supports the Connected Standby, a set of features that s especially desirable for tablets and hybrids.

With Bay Trail bringing higher performance to the low-power Atom line for tablets and Core processors scaling down to lower power, there’s bound to be a little overlap in the middle. Both compete with ARM-based chips--from companies such as Qualcomm, Samsung and Nvidia--as well as AMD’s Kabini and Temash processors. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter to Intel as long as it makes some headway in mobile. The Spectre x2 looks like a good start, but as with Bay Trail, Intel needs more design wins to show Core can really work in 2-in-1s and tablets.



Topics: Processors, Intel, Laptops, Tablets

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  • The great news is Intel is blowing past arm

    on power efficiency, performance, and lower cogs. The trifecta they need to secure mobile domination. There will soon be no reason for any phone or tablet to use arm, and many disadvantages to doing so. I hope Intel picks up its pace even more.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Who cares ?

      I'm just interested in more powerful, smaller form factors and I hope ARM/AMD hits back. There is this great thing called competition, it fosters innovation and keeps the price down.
      Alan Smithie
      • Obviously you care

        since performance and smaller form factors mean something to you.
        Why should it matter whether it comes from Intel or ARM/AMD?
        • Where have you been?

          Didn't you know that it's because of AMD that Intel drops the prices on their chips?

          Enough ignoramuses here already, don't join the band
      • Who cares? What do you think drives the evolution of these chips?

    • I'm happy

      because it means that ARM manufacturers won't be able to stranglehold mobile device OEMs to meet their demands.

      What I would really love to see would be Intel licensing their Atom architecture, potentially as part of deals with device designer/manufacturers to use Intel's foundry business. Intel power plus whatever custom functionality you want on it (ARM users slap on video controllers, NFC, WiFi, Bluetooth, etc. on to the chip). Directly compete with ARM in the IP space.
      Jacob VanWagoner
      • Intel licensing anything ain't gonna happen

        The last time Intel licensed anything was early
        in the x86 years, when customers were concerned
        about relying on a single source. Thus, Intel
        was forced to license its x86 IP to a small
        company named AMD. Fast forward to today,
        when Intel has several monster fabs, and AMD isn't
        small potatoes anymore either.

        No, Intel isn't going to license anything if it can help
        it. Nowadays, everyone poaches ideas from everyone
        else, and tries to make sure it's copying is lawsuit-proof.

        The other posters here are right. It's only because ARM
        and AMD have proven to be somewhat recalcitrant
        competitors that Intel has stepped up its innovation.

        Sadly, AMD hasn't really made itself into a long term
        viable competitor, losing tremendous amounts of money,
        when it should be making some profits so it can continue
        to invest in the processor arms race.

        It's in consumers' best interest that AMD and ARM
        are viable competitors to Intel, otherwise, Intel will
        become a monopoly and we all know from
        Economics 101 that a monopoly isn't good for consumers.
  • Intel is still behind AMD

    When it comes to this type of stuff. AMD has quad cores using 4W of power w/ SDP of 2.5W. And they have quite a bit better graphics. And AMD is still using quite a bit older processes, if they had the process advantage that Intel has, their chips would be in 1W already on quad cores. Considering they have 1.5W dual cores w/ Graphics.
    • So where is the AMD version of the Surface Pro?

      If that's true, why haven't we seen a tablet like the Surface Pro running an AMD chip? Seems to me that some manufacturer would want to outdo Microsoft's thick, heavy Surface Pro.
    • Better graphics

      because AMD bought ATI and got the Radeon HD intellectual property out of it. Everyone expected Intel to buy Nvidia, and they didn't.

      And those low power processors? Crap performance, and crap performance per watt.

      Intel's Atom already met those same wattage levels at similar performance.

      Haswell Y is interesting because it is maintaining a significant part of the performance characteristic of higher power parts, but also meeting the low power requirements.
      Jacob VanWagoner