Intel Haswell packs integrated voltage regulator


Intel Haswell packs integrated voltage regulator

Rick Merritt 5/23/2013 2:53 PM EDT

Integration eliminates as many as seven external third party chips—one of many power improvements driven by competition with ARM. SAN JOSE, Calif. – Intel will pack a voltage regulator on to its next generation Haswell processor, eliminating as many as seven external third party chips.

The news was one of a few details Intel revealed in a Haswell briefing the same day its archrival Advanced Micro Devices announced three mobile processors.

Intel sketched out several steps it took to lower power consumption in Haswell, its next generation x86 processor geared for everything from 7W tablets to 75W servers.

The techniques included integrating a voltage regulator, enhancing its 22nm process and using new power planes and states.

It previously disclosed Haswell also will use a new on-chip DRAM.

Power is a major focus for Intel given its rising competition especially in tablets and servers with generally lower power chips based on ARM cores.

Intel likely gave up the possibility of higher data rates in Haswell to capture the power savings.

The first Haswell chips are expected to ship later this year.

Some Haswell chips will put two die in a package.

The second die will be an integrated north and south bridge chip connected to the main CPU using a new low power interconnect.

All Haswell chips will sport an on-chip voltage regulator.

It will combine what was in previous CPUs as many as seven external voltage regulators made by third parties, lower the bill of materials and motherboard footprint, said Rani Borkar, general manager of the Intel Architecture Group which designs the company’s main processors.

Gartner Inc. pegs the market for Intel Vcore regulators at roughly $325 million. It is slowly declining due price erosion of the components and declines in the overall PC market, said Stephan Ohr, Gartner analyst for analog and power chips.

The three largest vendors of the chips are ON Semiconductor, Intersil and Texas Instruments, according to Gartner.

Linear Technology, Infineon, Maxim, Volterra and International Rectifier also participate in at least some segments such as voltage regulators for servers.

Over the past year, Haswell chip design teams worked with Intel’s fab teams to optimize the version of its 22nm process, called P1270, used for the x86 chips. Intel would not describe the enhancements, but it said their effect was to lower transistor leakage by 2-3x compared to its previous Ivy Bridge generation while lowering its minimum voltage level (Vmin) and not reducing the chip’s frequency.

The on-chip DRAM block is a novel design geared to serve the embedded Iris Pro graphics in Haswell. It is not a general purpose DRAM, said Kaizad R. Mistry, a vice president in Intel’s technology and manufacturing group.

Intel uses a separate version of its 22nm process, called P1271, for its low power SoCs such as the Atom-based Silvermont.

This process is the basis of what Intel’s foundry customers use, Mistry said.

Overall, Haswell will deliver about 50 percent better battery life than the prior Ivy Bridge on active workloads while doubling graphics performance, Intel claimed. “It has content creation performance at power levels generally associated with content consumption devices,” said Borkar.

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