After many months of waiting, it looks like Intel is finally poised to release the Broadwell desktop CPUs otherwise known as the 5th generation Core processors to the market. The transition to the 14nm processor has not been easy for Intel with many delays due to yield problems that pushed back the initial mobile release and even greater for the desktop. It seems like we have been on the 4000 series Core processors forever. With the rumored release of the Skylake or 6th generation Core processors for the end of the year, does the fact that Intel is even releasing the 5000 series processor even matter?
The primary goal of the Broadwell processors was to shrink the designs of Haswell from the 22nm fabrication processor to 14nm. This would theoretically improve the yields per wafer in the manufacturing processor to make it more economical for Intel. The other benefit of using the smaller fabrication process is to increase efficiency of the processors. They should consumer less energy to do the same amount of work as the previous Haswell designs.
Initial reviews of the new Core i5-5675C and Core i7-5775C seem to bear this out. For instance, the Core i7-5775C runs at 200MHz less than the Core i7-4770 processor while the Core i5-5675C runs 300MHz less than the Core i5-4670K processors. In addition to this, the TDP rating for the new 5th generation processors is just 65 Watts compared to the 84 Watts of the previous 4th generation models. The net result is that they don’t use as much power or generate as much heat.
But what about performance? Initial reviews of the CPUs by various sites have shown that at the stock speeds, the new 5th generation processors tend to run just as fast or slightly faster in most applications as the 4th generation parts. It seems there are still a few instances where the older generation with their higher clock speeds seem to make a difference but overall, most users would not see much of a performance improvement over the past generation.
Better Iris Pro Graphics
Where the major development of the new Broadwell based processors is the graphics engine that is built into the chip. Intel has never been known for their graphics performance from their integrated solutions but that might change with the Broadwell design. Intel has essentially doubled the number of execution units (EUs) from the Intel HD Graphics in the previous 4000 series processors and added in an extra eDRAM to the processor to act as another layer of cache between the memory, processor and graphics engine.
The net result is that the Intel 5th generation Core processors with the new Iris Pro 6200 graphics are the fastest integrated graphics solutions on the market. What does that actually mean? Well, it is now possible to play modern PC games on the integrated graphics at decent frame rates and resolutions which was not quite possible before. It even outperforms AMD and their Radeon graphics engine on their A10 APU. It is still a far cry from what can be done with a mid-range dedicated graphics processor. For instance, resolutions are still limited to roughly 720p and lower to moderate detail levels.
Why None of This Really Matters
So with the improvements in efficiency and graphics performance, why do I think that consumers should skip looking at the 5th generation Core desktop processors? It really comes down to three items:
1) General Performance is Not Much Greater Than 4th Generation
2) Integrated Graphics Only Matter to a Small Group of People
3) 6th Generation Processors Will Likely Be Out Soon
Essentially, Intel’s release is more of a stop gap than anything else. If you already have a Intel based system and were hoping to update to something with greater performance, you are going to need to wait. If you already have a i5-4670K or i7-4770K, there does not seem to be much reason to spend the money to upgrade. The only real benefit is the improved graphics but most people serious about the graphics are already using a dedicated video card which outperforms the Iris Pro 6200 anyways. More than likely, the lack of real differentiation between the previous generation and this one plus the upcoming release of the 6th generation Core or Skylake processors is why Intel released so few models to consumers.