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Tick-tock – Intel’s Skylake ‘tock’ is here

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Broadwell, Intel’s fifth generation processor, is out and generation six, Skylake, is officially here as of August 2015. In line with Intel’s tick-tock strategy, the Broadwell ‘tick’ saw the processer die shrink from 22nm to 14nm. With the Broadwell series Y, U, H and C releases, we get better performance and graphics, improved battery life, tighter security and the start of a wire free experience. What else does Broadwell bring and should users wait for Skylake to purchase?

Says George Lodewick, Dell commercial desktop and notebook specialist at distributor Drive Control Corporation (DCC): “The Broadwell release was delayed due to manufacturing issues so we have the Skylake release literally treading on its tail. Broadwell brings quantum improvements on a number of fronts and these are definitely worth having now if a technology refresh or upgrade is needed. However, Skylake will bring specific performance and feature improvements, such as a better wire-free laptop experience with wire-free charging – something some users may feel is worth the wait.”

 

How do the Broadwell advancements play out?

  • Power consumption has dropped by 30% to 40%. That means longer battery life and a 70% charge in as little as 30 minutes.
  • Battery life – Haswell offered 8+ hours, Broadwell pushes that to 11+ hours.
  • Graphics – 50% faster video conversion; 50% better 3D graphics performance; and Intel Iris Graphics 6100 and Intel Iris Pro Graphics 6200 (on premium notebooks) means users can watch 4K video without an external graphics card.
  • CPU – only a small 10-20% performance improvement for productivity applications (apps) over Haswell.
  • No wires – Wireless Display (WiDi 5.0) allows cable-free 4K audio and video streamed to a display; Pro WiDi adds enterprise security and privacy controls; and WiGig, which is faster that WiFi, supports wireless Gigabit (Gb) data connections to connect peripherals and to displays without cables. Wireless peripherals have yet to become widely available, however.
  • Perceptual computing – Intel RealSense technology allows 3D cameras to do gesture and facial expression, taking perceptual computing to the next level.

Security – Intel’s strategy is to make security more integrated and personal and do away with passwords through multi-factor biometric authentication. The “You Are the Password” (YAP for Consumer devices) strategy uses biometrics – the RealSense 3D camera to facilitate identification through the face of the user, as well as voice and fingerprint technology – to make the user the pass key.

Says Vince Resente of Intel South Africa: “Broadwell has reinvigorated mobile computing. The Broadwell ‘tick’ has brought ultra-low power, fanless designs. This makes for ultra-mobile devices that provide users with performance similar to traditional notebooks. With the Skylake ‘tock’ will come a microarchitecture redesign that will bring even greater CPU and GPU performance gains, further reduced power consumption and deliver a fuller wire-free experience. Skylake-based laptops, expected in Q4, 2015, will use wireless technology for charging, data transfer and for communication with peripherals.”

 

Platforms and processors

The Broadwell platform choices are Intel Core and Intel Core vPro, which reach across Core M, a chip that draws between 4.5 and 10 watts and is suitable for tablets, and Core i (i3, i5, i7) chips for laptops and hybrids. The Intel Small Business Advantage platform is for premium notebooks and mini desktops (i7). The processors have arrived in four main series: Y, U, H and R & C. Skylake will release variants Y, U, H and S.

  • Broadwell-Y, aka Core M, is a system on a chip (SoC) for tablets, ultra-thin notebooks, 2-in-1 detachables and other mobile devices. It rolled out at the end of 2014. Benefits: thin, low power (4.5W to 10W), fanless designs with better battery life.
  • Broadwell-U, mainstream dual-core chips, are used in convertibles, clamshells, and Intel’s Ultrabook and NUC mini desktop platforms. Benefits: they draw more power (15W) but introduce significantly faster CPU clock speeds and larger, faster GPUs.
  • Broadwell & H: for mobile workstations and premium notebooks, Broadwell-H is the latest release, long awaited in the desktop market. It’s a line of socketed processors for the i7-5xxx line of desktop and mobile PCs. Benefits: twice the 3D graphics speed and 20% faster general performance.
  • Broadwell- R&C: For desktops, these processors feature quad-core architecture and Iris Pro 6200 GPU. The R-series chips for small and thin desktops are BGA CPU’s that will be soldered to the motherboard. The two Broadwell-C desktop processors (i7-5775C and i5-5675C) are compatible with Intel’s current chipsets. They are socketed chips and are unlocked for overclocking (forcing the device to operate faster than the manufactured clock frequency).

Skylake-S desktop chips, the first of the generation six processors, is set to be released in August 2015. The Core M/Skylake-Y, high-performance mobile Core i-series Skylake-U and Skylake-H, are expected to be released from September 2015.

The next tick is a transition to 10nm in approximately 2017 with Cannonlake. Will the tick-tock stop?

Says Resente: “Moore’s Law is more than 50 years old. It is based on a statement made by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, in 1965.

It’s been 50 years since Gordon Moore, one of the founders of the microprocessor company Intel, gave us Moore’s Law. This says that the complexity of computer chips ought to double roughly every two years. To date it continues to hold true.

Will something other than silicon be needed to reach the 7nm tick? Time will tell. Meantime, we have Skylake and a wire-free future to contemplate.