Intel and AMD reveal new CPUs at Computex 2015

Over in Taipei, home of Computex 2015, Intel and AMD have revealed a tasty platter of freshly baked silicon. With a smattering of new Broadwell and Xeon processors from Intel, and an all-new mobile APU family from AMD, there’s a whole host of new chips for desktop and laptop manufacturers to get their teeth into. 

Intel and AMD reveal new CPUs at Computex 2015

Broadwell hits the desktop 

After delivering its Ultrabook-class Broadwell CPUs way back in January, Intel has finally taken the wraps off of its long-overdue desktop Broadwell range. 

This five-strong array of consumer-class quad-core CPUs sticks with the same 14nm process introduced by the rest of the Broadwell range, but Intel has packed each of the CPUs with an Iris Pro 6200 integrated GPU, 6MB of L3 cache and a whopping 128MB of L4 cache. Otherwise known by its codename, Crystal Well, that huge 128MB L4 cache is a portion of ultra-high-speed eDRAM designed to both improve GPU performance and system memory efficiency.

Interestingly, though, the five-strong range only includes two LGA-socketed CPUs, the overclockable 3.1GHz Core i7-5675C and the 3.3GHz Core i7-5775C: the other three BGA processors in the line-up are intended to be soldered permanently to a motherboard. We suspect that these BGA CPUs may begin to surface in a variety of all-in-one PCs and perhaps even Apple’s forthcoming refresh of its iMac range.    

On the server and workstation side of things, Intel unwrapped its Xeon E3-1200 v4 range. All based on Broadwell architecture, the E3-1200 v4 family adds features not found on its consumer Core processors, such as support for ECC memory and a variety of virtualisation features including VT-d and GVT graphics virtualisation.

Unusually for a family of CPUs aimed at business use, all five of the new CPUs are equipped with integrated GPUs. That might sound like an odd choice, but Intel is positioning the new Xeon E3 as an ideal fit for remote graphics workstations or video-transcoding duties. Here, the combination of the beefed-up Iris Pro Graphics P6300 integrated GPUs and Intel’s graphics virtualisation technologies (GVT) allows server-based virtual machines (VMs) to take direct control of the local integrated GPU for responsive graphics performance, as well as deliver vastly improved video-transcoding performance. 

High-powered Broadwell goes mobile 

On the mobile front, Intel finally got round to delivering its high-powered mobile Broadwell CPUs. Following on from the release of the low-voltage Broadwell-U platform earlier in the year, these chips are designed for high-end desktop workstations and mobile gaming behemoths.

In keeping with their desktop counterparts, the four Core i7 models combine a quad-core, eight-thread architecture with the latest Iris Pro 6200 GPU, 6MB of L3 cache and 128MB of high-speed Crystal Well cache. Clock speeds start at 2.5GHz, while the top-of-the-range 2.9GHz Core i7-5950HQ reaches up to a heady Turbo Boost frequency of 3.7GHz. Meanwhile, the cheapest model in the line-up, the 3GHz Core i5-5350H, adopts a dual-core, four-thread architecture and makes do with 4MB of L3 cache. 

With Intel’s next-generation architecture Skylake waiting in the wings and ready for a release later in 2015, these high-end Broadwell processors are little more than a stopgap for manufacturers wanting to upgrade the beefier laptops in their line-ups. Notably, Apple shunned Broadwell for its recent MacBook Pro refresh – in truth, the benefits of moving from Haswell to Broadwell are unlikely to be dramatic. 

Don’t call it a CPU: AMD strikes back 

Not to be outdone, AMD also made an appearance. It’s difficult to even remember the last time we saw an AMD-powered laptop, but that may be set to change. The arrival of AMD Carrizo – the sixth-generation A-Series APU – is the company’s bid to regain a foothold in the £300-to-£600 laptop sector. 

AMD continues to push its APU (accelerated processing unit) concept, giving equal billing to both GPU and CPU cores in its latest SoC. Carrizo combines four of AMD’s Excavator CPU cores with eight GPU cores based on the existing Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture to deliver a total of 12 compute cores. Built on a 28nm process, and with a power consumption of 15W, these chips are designed to deliver superior gaming and compute performance for low- to mid-range laptops. 

AMD is claiming victory over Intel’s Broadwell Core i3, i5 and i7 CPUs in 3DMark 11, with performance increases in the order of 20% or greater. And as ever, Carrizo’s integrated GPU is capable of pairing up with a discrete GPU thanks to AMD’s Asymmetric Rendering technology, which is a far more elegant, scalable version of the older Crossfire tech. 

In addition to support for DirectX 12, Carrizo stakes a world first: it’s the first processor to support high-efficiency video coding (HEVC), otherwise known as H.265. This is a compression technology that provides twice the video compression of H.264 and heralds the possibility of streaming everything from 4K video to pixel-perfect games, all without chewing through a huge amount of bandwidth. 

Not excited by HEVC? If you’re a gamer, you probably should be. It’s set to be the codec of choice for Windows 10’s Xbox-One-to-PC game-streaming functions. 

Will Carrizo prove the shot in the arm that AMD’s been waiting for? Possibly, but it’s got a tough road ahead of it. Ultimately, its fate rests squarely in the hands of the manufacturers, and Carrizo will live or die by the quality of the laptops they produce – with Carrizo-powered devices due to land around July or August of this year, I’m praying for something special.

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