Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors will start to trickle out in April, but some details about the successor Haswell, due in 2013, have already surfaced. It seems that Intel continues its valiant struggle towards integrated graphics that suck slightly less.In view of what AMD and Nvidia are about to launch on the mobile and desktop front, there is no question that Intel will continue its uphill battle in the chip maker’s attempts to launch an integrated graphics processor that is even close to competing with what the two dedicated GPU manufacturers have on tap. Although Ivy Bridge brings significant improvements in power-efficient graphics, the competition has not been sitting idle.
Nevertheless, the next step in Intel’s tick-tock sequence, the 22nm Haswell, will receive further improvements, including DirectX 11.1 support and an additional level of cache memory (L4), which will be entirely dedicated to the graphics part of the chip (all of Intel’s IGPs are integrated on the chip itself today).
Unlike Ivy Bridge, which is a derivative of Sandy Bridge with a number of improvements and a shrink of the manufacturing technology, Haswell is an entirely new architecture. One of the main ingredients is the upgraded graphics processor that – on paper – may be a match for dedicated entry-level Geforce and Radeon GPUs. Another is a very significant reduction in power consumption.
The L4 cache rumor comes from VR-Zone, which goes on to claim that the Level 4 memory differs from previous generations in that is not housed on the same silicon as the other parts, but is a separate circuit in a so-called multi-chip package or MCP. The chips come in several different varieties, but even the ULV variants for thin-and-light ultrabook laptops may be a lot more powerful compared to Ivy Bridge.
While it’s quite possible that Intel may take a bite out of the entry-level GPU market, this will essentially change nothing in the high-end laptop GPU segment for gamers and enthusiasts, with a possible exception for better battery life in combination with switchable graphics.