In the 2015 CES show, Intel announced their newest products: Broadwell chips. Now, this has been something they’ve been promising they would do for the past few years. Their initial delays affected the rollout originally. The company made the decision to actually stagger the launch dates. First they would introduct the cores that were more power-efficient, and then mobile parts. These chips are known as Broadwell-U, to help people tell them apart from the Broadwell-Y (Core M) family.
What they will do exactly is replace the current Haswell low voltage products and dual-core processors, thus being placed mainly into ultrabooks and laptops used by non-professionals. They also bump up the transistor count and die size markedly, mainly on the GPU side. The Broadwell-U 1.9B transistors use their energy on pushing out to 48 executable units, a considerable jump from the 24 executable units of the Broadwell-Ys. (48 executable units is the equivilant to the CUDA core or even the streaming processor count from an AMD or NVIDIA chip.)
They have two basic configurations for the Broadwell GPU: GT3 and GT2. The GT3 provides 48 executable units, while the GT2 provides 24. The horsepower is a huge factor in determining the processor pricing. They will be releasing some of the basic dual-core CPUS in multiple configurations, including Iris and HD Graphics. The HD graphics notes a lowered subsystem with the least amount of performance attached to the lower-priced processor. The capability of the graphics obviously plays an important role in the chip TDP and pricing, as the cheapest HD parts can start at over $300.
Obviously, the biggest question consumers have is if these chips will actually improve battery life. Unfortunately, it’s a bit complicated since it can depend entirely upon what you are looking for and where you are looking for it. Thankfully, Broadwell incorporates quite a few improvements in the underlying SoC. Intel has now been able to turn off the GPU for a large period of the time while continuously refreshing the display controller. On top of that, the chips also have a low-power audio DSP, which significantly improves their power consumption when watching videos and playing back content. Of course, these up-sides are conditional. Back when Haswell was let loose, a comparison study was done on an identical laptop with Ivy Bridge. They performed in multiple battery life scenarios, and the Haswell chip actually delivered almost a 50% increase in the battery life. Unfortunately, when at full power life, the battery somehow drained much quicker, decreasing by a significant amount. This just means that the battery life is going to be workload dependent, as with any other laptop.
So depending on the type of laptop and the type of user, this can either be fantastic… or not really worth it. Undoubtedly they will continue making improvements on Haswell, and Broadwell is quite a jump forward for the mobile computer industry. If your laptop is from 2011, it would be a good idea to jump on it. If you’re still using Ivy Bridge or Haswell however, maybe Broadwell just isn’t a step up enough to spend the money.