Platform Retargeting

Since the introduction of Conroe/Merom back in 2006 Intel has been prioritizing notebooks for the majority of its processor designs. The TDP target for these architectures was set around 35 - 45W. Higher and lower TDPs were hit by binning and scaling voltage. The rule of thumb is a single architecture can efficiently cover an order of magnitude of TDPs. In the case of these architectures we saw them scale all the way up to 130W and all the way down to 17W.

In the middle of 2011 Intel announced its Ultrabook initiative, and at the same time mentioned that Haswell would shift Intel's notebook design target from 35 - 45W down to 10 - 20W.

At the time I didn't think too much about the new design target, but everything makes a lot more sense now. This isn't a "simple" architectural shift, it's a complete rethinking of how Intel approaches platform design. More importantly than Haswell's 10 - 20W design point, is the new expanded SoC design target. I'll get to the second part shortly.

Platform Power

There will be four client focused categories of Haswell, and I can only talk about three of them now. There are the standard voltage desktop parts, the mobile parts and the ultra-mobile parts: Haswell, Haswell M and Haswell U. There's a fourth category of Haswell that may happen but a lot is still up in the air on that line.

Of the three that Intel is talking about now, the first two (Haswell/Haswell M) don't do anything revolutionary on the platform power side. Intel is promising around a 20% reduction in platform power compared to Sandy Bridge, but not the order of magnitude improvement it promised at IDF. These platforms are still two-chip solutions with the SoC and a secondary IO chip similar to what we have today with Ivy Bridge + PCH.

It's the Haswell U/ULT parts that brings about the dramatic change. These will be a single chip solution, with part of the voltage regulation typically found on motherboards moved onto the chip's package instead. There will still be some VR components on the motherboard as far as I can tell, it's the specifics that are lacking at this point (which seems to be much of the theme of this year's IDF).

Seven years ago Intel first demonstrated working silicon with an on-chip North Bridge (now commonplace) and on-package CMOS voltage regulation:

The benefits were two-fold: 1) Intel could manage fine grained voltage regulation with very fast transition times and 2) a tangible reduction in board component count.


2005 - A prototype motherboard using the technology. Note the lack of voltage regulators on the motherboard and the missing GMCH (North Bridge) chip.

The second benefit is very easy to understand from a mobile perspective. Fewer components on a motherboard means smaller form factors and/or more room for other things (e.g. larger battery volume via a reduction in PCB size).

The first benefit made a lot of sense at the time when Intel introduced it, but it makes even more sense when you consider the most dramatic change to Haswell: support for S0ix active idle.

Introduction: Stating the Problem The New Sleep States: S0ix
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  • 1008anan - Saturday, October 06, 2012 - link

    Haswell will sport 32 single precision or 16 double precision flops per cycle per core for its desktop and high tdp mobile skews [at least 30 watt and up].

    Can anyone speculate on how many single precision and double precision flops per cycle per core Haswell will execute for its low TDP skews? For example the less than 10 watt skews? the 15 watt skews?

    I would also be interested in learning speculation about how many execution units (or shader cores if you prefer standard nomenclature) the low TDP Haswell products will have.
    Reply
  • 1008anan - Saturday, October 06, 2012 - link

    Haswell will be able to execute 16 double precision or 32 single precision flops per clock per core for desktop and high TDP mobile skews [at least 30 watts and up].

    Can anyone speculate on how many flops per cycle per core the sub 10 watt and 15 watt Haswell skews will execute? Similarly I would be interested in hearing speculation about how many graphic execution units (shader cores) the sub 10 watt and 15 watt Haswell products will come with. Any speculation on graphics clock speed?

    Is it possible that the high end tock 22 nm Xeon server parts could have 32 double precision or 64 single precision flops per clock per core?
    Reply
  • Laststop311 - Saturday, October 06, 2012 - link

    Best explanation of haswell I've read to date. Good Job Anand. Reply
  • lmcd - Saturday, October 06, 2012 - link

    Interestingly, this might be the first chance in forever AMD has at competing with Intel. If Haswell's sole goal is to hit lower power targets, and Piledriver hits its 15% and Steamroller its 15% over that, AMD is suddenly right up with Intel's i5 series with its GPU-less chips, and upper i3-range with their APUs, which is absolutely perfect positioning: most i5 purchases are for people planning to pair with discrete graphics, while most i3 series seem to go to the PC buyer looking for low price tags.

    The one downside is that the i7 series is Intel's money-maker: the clueless people who think they're getting maximum performance but are really just feeding the binning system and buying an unbalanced PC.
    Reply
  • milkod2001 - Sunday, October 07, 2012 - link

    u got it wrong bro, Intels money maker is not i7, it's i3 and i5(low end and a bit of mainstreem)

    as for Haswell, on paper it looks too good to be true as Ivy did last year and ended up everything but impressive.

    Since Intel conroe core(2006) there actually were not any significant improvements worth mentioning.There's not much extra what todays CPUs can do and Pentium4 could not a decade ago.

    I would love to see some innovations user could really benefit from(something like reattachable,thin, light, portable, firm solar panel hooked at the back of screen or even build in as last layer into screen itself) and not that crap Intel/AMD gives us year by year.
    Reply
  • xeizo - Sunday, October 07, 2012 - link

    Anand is very right, it's everything about power savings which in effect makes smaller and more portable form factors possible!

    As for mainstream perfomance, my Linux workstation still uses a Q9450 rev. C1 from 2008 clocked at 3.2GHz and a SSD of course. That box feels in every way as snappy as my Windows-box with Sandy Bridge at 4.8GHz. Which means, I really didn't need more performance than what C2Q already gave. Of course the SB-box benchmarks much faster, about twice as fast in most things, but the point is for myself I really don't need that perfromance except for some occasional game.

    But I could use a smaller, cooler running device instead!
    Reply
  • Teknobug - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    LOL my Linux system still runs a Sempron and it's still fast. Reply
  • oomjcv - Sunday, October 07, 2012 - link

    Very interesting article, enjoyed reading it.

    Something I would like to see is a decent comparison between Intel's and AMD's plans. Many might be able to outline the basics, but a thorough article on the subject should be rather enlightening... Comparing their design philosophies, architectures, possible pitfalls and successes etc, pretty much what's been done with this article only with both companies.
    I know it might be time consuming but I imagine it could be quite a nice read.
    Reply
  • zwillx - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    agreed; it's difficult to find the common ground with so many different chip architectures. x86 is a big enough competition but now it's getting split wide open with ARM and BIG/litle etc etc so it's always helpful to have either more charts or real world examples lol.

    My take from this article though: Haswell still won't have the prowess to beat the GT650. I have GTX660 in my laptop w/ Optimus (TM). It works. Runs a game on HD4000 at 17 FPS. On the GTX660 I get 100+ fps, and am able to use higher anti-aliasing settings. So, clearly a 100% improvement over Ivy bridge is only putting the chip into "mediocre" category by the time its released.
    Reply
  • alexandrio - Sunday, October 07, 2012 - link

    "The bigger concern is whether or not the OEMs and ISVs will do their best to really take advantage of what Haswell offers. I know one will, but will the rest?"

    I am curious who is that one OME that will do their best to really take advantage of Haswell offers?
    Reply

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