A Changing Thermal Target: Discussing Haswell

Pat Gelsinger once taught me that a single microprocessor architecture can efficiently target an order of magnitude of TDPs. It's not that you can't scale above or below that range, but at that point it becomes more efficient to use a different microarchitecture.

Let's take Sandy Bridge for example. Current desktop variants of the chip exist at 65W and 95W TDPs and later this year we will see Sandy Bridge E with a 130W TDP. If we pick 130W as the upper bound for the architecture, it should be able to efficiently scale down as low as 13W - or one order of magnitude. Looking at mobile SNB processors, it does.

Intel's ultra low voltage SNB carries a 17W TDP, while mainstream mobile SNB chips are in the 35W (dual core) to 45W (quad core) range. These TDPs all include processor graphics. With Sandy Bridge, Intel has an architecture that spans from 17W all the way up to 130W. I wouldn't be too surprised if we eventually saw some ~13W SNB parts for really low power applications in the future.

At the end of Q1 of next year Intel will introduce Ivy Bridge, its first 22nm microprocessor. I fully expect Ivy Bridge to target relatively similar TDPs as Sandy Bridge, however the initial launch will be confined to TDPs less than or equal to 95W (much like SNB was).

With Lynnfield Intel made it very clear that it's possible to get high-end desktop class performance out of a 95W part. While the 130W chips were still faster, the majority of enthusiast users would get by just fine with Lynnfield. The move to Sandy Bridge highlighted Intel's move away from 130W TDPs for high-end desktop processors and down towards 95W. As I noticed in my transition to a mobile quad-core SNB notebook as my primary workstation, I believe this generation of 130W CPUs will target a smaller portion of enthusiast users than the previous generation. The trend is definitely downward, towards lower TDPs.

Haswell is where Intel's architectures take a dramatic turn. Ivy Bridge is a derivative of the Sandy Bridge architecture, which of course was designed for that 13 - 130W range. Haswell however is a brand new architecture. It'll likely look similar to Sandy and Ivy but its target TDPs will be shifted down. In mobile, Haswell designs will be set at 10 - 20W. That's not the lower bound of the design, just the target for mobile. What does that do to the rest of the scale? Intel presented this slide at its analyst day earlier this month:

In Sandy Bridge, mobile occupied the 35 - 45W range - roughly the bottom third of the architecture's target. Around Haswell two things happen: the mobile design drops and the Atom design target moves upward.

Atom will service a new expanded range from ~800mW to 8W, leaving Haswell to address the ~10W and above market. Multiply that number by 10 and we have our upper bound of 100W - which isn't much different from the 95W we see today for high-end SNB SKUs. That being said, I do believe we'll see a lot more focus around 65W in the desktop.

Meet the Ultrabook Where Does This Leave Atom?


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  • OS - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    heh i am hardly a mac fanboy, but i take this as intel basically saying half the future laptops should look like a macbook air Reply
  • Penti - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    Well ultra portables are nothing new, but they are consumer friendly with pricing now. I.e. a laptop with a ULV processor doesn't cost over 2000 dollars any more. Which on the low end Apple was late getting on. CULV and consumer ultra-portables was already there by then. It's Intel that is responsible for all that as they provided the hardware platform for it to happen. A ULV-processor could before just a few years ago almost cost more then a CULV-laptop. Now they can be had for 100 USD. Performing not that badly. Falls in line with their "consumerising" of PCs. Reply
  • kevith - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    Is this a way to solve the input-problem with tablets?

    You could have one of these new ultrathin ultrabooks, and - like some clam-type phones - have a screen on the outside for pad-use, where you could use swype or normal touch.screen input.

    And then you could open it and have a normal keyboard and screen on the inside for more demanding work.
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    When Steve Jobs unveiled the MacBook Air last year he said that it's design was a prelude to future MacBooks. Now Intel says the future of the PC is ultra-thin notebooks. Hmmm... Reply
  • sstteevveenn - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    roadmap [s]going forward[/s] Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    Anyone else wondering when are the new "Hyperbooks" due?

  • tipoo - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    "Atom will service a new expanded range from ~800mW to 8W"

    The Cortex A9 cores (each) draw 250mW at load. Still a ways to go for Intel, but if a single one of those 800mW cores can beat both Cortex A9 cores in performance that's competitive.
  • name99 - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    "The first requirement of an Ultrabook is that it's ultra-thin. In Intel's eyes this means less than 0.8" (20.32mm) which is thinner than anything Apple offers in the MacBook Pro line (0.95")."

    So I guess that Intel (unlike a million screaming Apple haters) can see the writing on the wall. Optical storage is pointless for an ever larger group of users.

    Let's see how long it takes for the story to switch from "but but but, how do you deal with not having a boot DVD" to "of course, Apple stole the idea of selling bootable USB sticks from MS/Linux/Nintendo/Atari".
  • frozentundra123456 - Wednesday, June 01, 2011 - link

    I agree with Kevith. Seems to me like the ideal solution would be a combination of some tablet type screen that would then open up to allow you to use a keyboard.

    I would pay 1000.00 for something like this that you could use as a tablet and laptop combination. otherwise, I could not consider paying this much for a thin and light notebook. As someone else noted, i would prefer to buy a 500.00 tablet and a separate 500.00-700.00 laptop.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Wednesday, June 01, 2011 - link

    Intel is obviously on a big money grab hoping their huge margins are going to carry them to the stars. Obviously they are delusional. All the idiot-trendy yuppie types who would actually pay the intel premium for a device like this are already buying Apple. lol. The non-ultrabook products will be significantly cheaper, thus they are what will sell, aside from the small % mindless yuppies who are already buying apple. Reply

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