Intel’s next-gen quad-core processors tested

Intel’s next-gen quad-core processors tested

Fourth-gen Core i-series “Haswell” CPUs promise big leaps in performance and battery life.

 In what has become an annual ritual,
the higher-end segment of Intel’s new generation of processors has been
launched at the Computex trade show in Taipei. This includes the
quad-core versions of what Intel calls the fourth-generation Core
i-series, which was until recently known by the code name “Haswell,” and
was extensively previewed at
CES 2013.
Quad-core CPUs are generally found in higher-end desktops and laptops,
and are part of Intel’s i7 CPU line. Most mainstream PCs use Core i3 and
i5 dual-core CPUs — the Haswell versions of those are coming later.
For laptop and desktop shoppers, this means some PCs you buy over this
summer and beyond will include the fourth-gen chips, although the new
parts retain the same Core i3/i5/i7 series names as the previous
generations. Adding to the potential confusion, current-gen (and even
last-gen) Intel CPUs are more than powerful enough for everyday use,
such as Web surfing, HD video playback, social networking, office tasks,
and e-mail — so you’re right to ask what the motivation to upgrade is.
A map of a new quad-core fourth-generation Intel Core i-series processor.
Besides faster application performance, Intel is touting better battery
life, much-improved integrated graphics, and special features such as
Wireless Display, all of which may be more important to the typical PC
shopper than basic application performance. Intel claims that fourth-gen
laptops can possibly run for 50 percent longer than third-gen Core
i-series systems, jumping from 6 hours to 9.1 hours in one
Intel-reported Core i7 vs. Core i7 test.
Our first Haswell/fourth-gen Core i-series hardware comes in the form of
a small-form-factor Fragbox gaming desktop from Falcon Northwest and
Razer’s new Blade 14 gaming laptop. That means these tests won’t tell us
much about Intel’s new integrated graphics solution, in some systems to
be called HD 5000 (the current gen is HD 4000), and in higher-end
laptops called Iris. Current HD 4000 graphics still can’t run many
new/popular games well, and being able to do that without the need for a
separate graphics card is something a lot of laptop shoppers have been
seeking for a long time.

Sarah Tew/CNET)

Instead, this high-end desktop gives us a chance to run our CNET Labs
benchmarks on a new quad-core Intel Core i7-4770K and i7-4702HQ CPUs. As
an added bonus, the Fragbox system also includes the very latest new
Nvidia GPU, the GeForce GTX780.
In the charts below, we compare the Falcon Northwest Fragbox with a
high-end gaming desktop from the previous Intel/Nvidia generation, and
the Razer Blade 14 with a recent Toshiba Qosmio X875
gaming laptop. Note that the two desktops referenced here were both
originally overclocked for faster performance. For the results below,
we’ve run them at their stock clock speeds. In a full review of the
Fragbox, we’ll return to the overclocked performance scores.

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Razor Blade 14
Falcon Northwest Fragbox
Intel third-gen Core i7 gaming whitebox
Toshiba Qosmio X875
Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Falcon Northwest Fragbox
Intel third-gen Core i7 gaming whitebox
Toshiba Qosmio X875
Razor Blade 14
Multimedia multitasking – iTunes and Handbrake (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Falcon Northwest Fragbox
Intel third-gen Core i7 gaming whitebox
Razor Blade 14
Toshiba Qosmio X875
Cinebench 11.5 
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs   
Rendering single CPU   
Falcon Northwest Fragbox
Intel third-gen Core i7 gaming whitebox
Razor Blade 14
Toshiba Qosmio X875
BioShock Infinite (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Falcon Northwest Fragbox
Intel third-gen Core i7 gaming whitebox
Razor Blade 14
Toshiba Qosmio X875
Metro: Last Light (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Falcon Northwest Fragbox
Intel third-gen Core i7 gaming whitebox
Razor Blade 14
Toshiba Qosmio X875

Of course, the newer, faster processor and newer, faster graphics card
are going to turn in better performance than the previous generation —
hopefully that’s not a surprise. The degree is notable, but
realistically, we’re at a point where few people need more CPU power
than they already have.
It’s also worth noting that we’re testing complete retail systems in the
above comparisons, not individual components, so a lot of factors are
in play in determining performance. Additionally, the gaming tests are
hugely influenced by the included GPUs. That said, these are reasonable
generation-over-generation comparisons, and show you what enthusiast
shoppers have to look forward to over the summer and into the holiday
Especially for the gaming tests, we’d be very interested in the new
integrated graphics, but again, with the high-end hardware more often
found in combination with quad-core CPUs — in this case the Nvidia
GeForce 780 — you’re not actually taking advantage of any improvements
in Intel’s built-in integrated graphics. To really get a feel for the HD
5000 and Iris, we’ll have to wait for near-future dual-core Haswell
systems, such as ultrabooks, that won’t have Nvidia or AMD graphics
Razer’s Blade 14 is one of the first laptops to include a Haswell CPU.
Battery life, however, is one area where quad-core laptops could use some real help. The just-announced Razer Blade 14,
a gaming laptop with the new Intel i7-4702 and an Nvidia 675 GPU, is so
far running very impressively in the CNET Labs. We’re still running our
battery life benchmarks on that system and will update this story with
final numbers when we have them. Our similarly configured gaming laptop
from the previous Intel generation, the the Toshiba Qosmio X875, with a
third-gen Core i7-3630QM and Nvidia GTX670, ran for only 1:39 in earlier
tests — but keep in mind that’s a huge 17-inch desktop replacement
laptop not designed for portable use.
Also remember that these are all enthusiast-level systems with
enthusiast-level parts. What Intel is most interested in pushing is thin
ultrabooks and funky laptop/tablet hybrids. No doubt the mainstream and
low-voltage fourth-generation Core i-series CPUs, expected early next
week at the Computex trade show, will offer a lot more in terms of
features, power efficiency, and mainstream pricing (the Razer Blade 14
is $1,799, while the Fragbox as configured is more than $3,000).
For now, Intel is leading with its high-end quad-core chips, so look for
full reviews of several quad-core fourth-generation Core i-series
desktops and laptops in the coming weeks. 

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