It's no secret that Intel is launching its next-generation CPU architecture, codenamed Haswell, in May or June of this year. Haswell follows on from the third-generation Core Ivy Bridge chips that remain popular with enthusiasts and system builders alike.
It is also known that the Haswell architecture reduces power and increases performance, especially graphics, when compared to the Ivy Bridge parts shipping today.
A top-of-the-range Core i7-4770K Haswell chip has the same basic topology as the current Core i7-3770K, translating to four cores, hyper-threading and 8MB of last-level cache, but the use of different sockets - LGA 1150 vs. LGA 1155 - means that a new motherboard, an Intel 8-series, is also required for Haswell.
The run-up to any technology launch is rife with rumours and speculation, and Haswell is no different in this regard. The folks over at Tom's have managed to snag a pre-production Haswell chip and have run some numbers.
Summarising Tom's performance findings, the pre-production Core i7-4770K is generally between five and 10 per cent faster than a Core i7-3770K for CPU-intensive benchmarks, and understanding that both chips operate at the same speed, the gains are related to architecture improvements.
But the biggest generation-to-generation improvements are to be found in the performance of the chips' on-board 'GT2' graphics. The 4770K's HD Graphics 4600 IGP is between 10 and 50 per cent faster than the 3770K's HD 4000 Graphics, with the improvement very much dependent on title.
Tom's commits a minor faux pas by not including numbers for an AMD Trinity-based APU's graphics in the graphs, though does mention them in passing in the text. The A10-5800K's IGP is 10-25 per cent faster than the new-and-improved HD Graphics 4600, the author notes. However, we know that some mobile-orientated Haswell chips will feature beefed-up 'GT3' HD 5xxx graphics, though we're unlikely to see them present for desktop parts.
Unfortunately, there are no numbers for power consumption, which would be interesting to see, and we have to take the performance of any pre-production chip, using beta drivers, on a new motherboard, with a large pinch of salt.
Adding some more context, the eagle-eyed folks over at Hardware.info have screengrabbed leaked pricing for the Core i7-4770K. Up for an average of 340 euros ( £295) on two retailers, the purported cost is around £40 higher than what's charged for a presently available Core i7-3770K. AMD will clearly play on the fact that its soon-to-be-last-generation Trinity APU's graphics performance is better than Intel's next-generation chips' - a fact that's underscored by the AMD chip costing one-third of the price for Intel's range-topper.
We're keen to see how the shipping Haswell parts match up to the performance numbers posted by Tom's. It seems like Haswell will be, for the most part, an incremental performance upgrade from third-generation Ivy Bridge.