Intel’s Baffling New Broadwell CPUs

Intel has finally, belatedly, possibly even reluctantly wheeled out its latest 14nm Broadwell CPU architecture in desktop processor trim (we’ve seen it before as a mobile chip). And it’s all a bit baffling. The new chips are not really direct replacements for Intel’s existing Core i5 and Core i7 gaming favourites. They’re not really faster, except when they occasionally are. And they set new standards for integrated graphics but still make absolutely no sense for gaming. In short, you needn’t rush out and buy one.

Note:
Jump to the bottom for the TL;DR

The backdrop to all this is Intel’s 14 nanometre chip production tech. 14nm is, of course, the notional size of the tiny transistor gates inside the chips. Or something like that. The details probably don’t matter. It’s just bloody small and a shrink from the 22nm silicon that Intel uses for its existing Haswell processors, like the Core i5 4690K.

According to Intel’s master plan, die shrinks like this come with only minor changes to the circuitry, the emphasis being on smaller transistors not the architectural design, though Intel hasn’t always stuck rigidly to that. In this case, the CPU bits haven’t changed much, but there’s some pretty major new graphics goodness. Yes, like all other mainstream Intel CPUs, these things bave integrated graphics which you’re not gong to use. More on that in a second.

First, the basics. Intel is pitching Broadwell as its 5th generation Core processor. At launch there are two relevant new chips, the Core i7-5775C and the Core i5-5675C. Yes, ‘C’ at the end, not ‘K’. These two chips are unlocked for easy overclocking like the old K series CPUs, but they’re relatively low power at 65W a pop (versus 80-odd for existing Intel CPUs aimed at gamers) and not terribly high clocked.

The 5775C is nominally 3.3GHz, with a 3.7GHz ‘Turbo’ mode, while the 5675C is 3.1GHz and 3.6GHz Turbo. Lest ye forget, the older Core i7-4790K Turbos up to fully 4.4GHz. Oh, and we’re talking quad-core yet again and the usual Core i5 versus Core i7 distinction that sees the 7 get Hyperthreading, but not the 5.

Yep, it’s still four bleedin’ cores

Intel has also launched some Broadwells with ‘R’ suffixes, but these are BGA-packaged CPUs and thus soldered permanently to motherboards and not really in our collective wheelhouse. They’re the sort of chips you’ll find in pre-built small-form factor boxes, that kind of thing.

Price-wise, the two newbies slot in at similar but slightly higher prices to the existing 4690K and 4790K range toppers, as far as I can see, and thus from roughly £200 / $250 for the cheaper i5-5675C.

So, that’s significantly lower clocks, the same core and thread counts for a bit more money and that weird new ‘C’ suffix. Oh, and the new chips drop into the LGA1150 socket and will be compatible with existing motherboards with 9 Series chipsets like the Z97 and H97, though you should check with your board maker regards BIOS support.

Like I said at the top, all fairly baffling. The explanation, as far as I can fathom, is that the 14nm delay has relegated these Broadwell chips to stopgap status before the real excitement happens later this year with the new Skylake generation and its fancy new chipset and added PCI Express connectivity.

If there is an aspect of Broadwell that’s truly interesting, it’s the graphics. Both the new chips get the highest performing version of Intel’s new integrated graphics, codenamed Crystal Well and sold as Intel Iris Pro 6200. That means 48 Execution Units (up from 40 and each one tweaked for more performance) and 128MB of eDRAM embedded memory.

That memory is in a separate chip in the CPU package. It’s mainly for graphics, but can also be used as level 4 cache memory to help prop up the CPU cores.

As for performance, I’m on the hoof in Europe currently so haven’t had a hands on just yet. Early numbers from the usual suspects including Anandtech make for intriguing reading, but only if you are a CPU geek. Just occasionally, the eDRAM seems to boost CPU performance a little beyond expectation. Twist my arm and I’ll admit that the positive impact on minimum frame rates in games looks borderline worthwhile, but only if you were already dead set on upgrading your CPU.

As for the performance of the integrated graphics itself, it’s a tale of two halves. On the one hand it’s clearly the fastest integrated graphics yet. But it’s still marginal at best for actual gaming. You’re looking at 40 to 50 frames per second in demanding games at middling to high details. If that sounds OK, the resolution in question is 1,280 by 720 (AKA 720p). Even 1080p at middling detail will often make for chuggy gaming.

Slightly better minimum frame rates in Mordor. That’s all I got…or rather all you’ll get

On a budget chip, that might be interesting. But these are pretty pricey processors, starting at roughly £200 / $250, so it would be madness not to run them with a proper graphics card.

So, there it is. I hate to grumble yet again about a new Intel CPU, especially when Intel is battling with the very laws of physics to bring us its 14nm silicon technology. But these new chips really are of almost zero interest to gamers and enthusiasts, the only possible exception being if they turn out to be overclocking monsters. The jury on that is out.

Instead, they exist in order that Intel can start to sell more 14nm product. They make sense from a business perspective, no doubt. The benefit to us punters of a desktop persuasion is far less clear. Once again, then, Skylake later this year remains the great hope for some interesting mainstream CPUs from Intel. If that turns out to be dreary, I will do a Paddy Ashdown and start eating hats. Or at least proffering ill-advised ultimatums about edible headgear.

Still, at least none of us need rush out and buy a new Broadwell CPU.

TL;DR
Intel has launched two new chips for existing LGA1150 9 Series motherboards, the Core i7-5775C and Core i5-5675C. They’re built using fancy new 14nm transistors. They have the fastest ever integrated graphics of any CPU. But the integrated graphics still makes no sense for serious gaming. And CPU performance is mostly unexciting compared with existing Intel processors.

60 Comments

  1. Optimaximal says:

    An Iris chip could be a good thing to have if Microsoft’s DirectX 12 Multi-GPU support becomes a real thing.

    • Unclepauly says:

      Yeah from what I read it could give anywhere from 5-15% jump in framerates. That is not huge but it’s nice to have.

  2. pepperfez says:

    I can’t imagine it being worth their time to release the desktop version…what, two months ahead of its successor? It seems like just getting the packaging made and shipped would eat up most of their expected profits on such a niche product. Maybe there are just more compulsive upgraders out there than I want to believe.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      I’m guessing these are just surplus OEM chips given retail packaging.

      OEMs want new parts to sell PCs even if its just last years model with a new name like the Radeon HD6770. Couple that with OEMs wanting new products to coincide with the Win10 release, Intel having a new fabrication process, an architecture that won’t be ready on time and you’ve got all the reason Intel needs to make this product.

  3. Ethaor says:

    What a let down Intel has been these past few years, ever since the boom of tablets and the likes that, thank god, came to a stall in terms of sales.

    Maybe now the R&D focus can go back to calculating power instead of compactness and power efficiency.

    Honorary mention to AMD’s competitiveness who pushed the market forward these past few years. Not!

    • inf says:

      The problem isn’t so much lack in advent of CPU power (at least not when you look at the high end Haswell-E, which now has a octacore with huge L3 cache that can reach 5Ghz on water), but with the lack of a decent API that efficiently uses those CPUs for gaming. Once that API is in place (DX12), you will see development make much better use of CPUs in gaming, and reduce overhead at the same time.

      • Artist says:

        You have no clue what youre talking about, right? Admit it and you will feel much better! And promise not not join technobabble again without a cent of clue.

    • nil says:

      hey, take it up with Dennard, Intel just works here.

      • inf says:

        You’re right sirs, i’m sorry sirs. I must yield in light of your incredibly relevant elaboration. Because clearly, since we haven’t seen exponential scaling anymore for years, there is ABSOLUTELY NO performance to be yielded by improving APIs. How mistaken i was to attempt technobabble with the likes of you.

  4. kwyjibo says:

    Intel’s next chip is coming out by year end. No idea why Broadwell exists.

  5. Baines says:

    The big issue that I’ve seen with integrated graphics isn’t the middling power, it is that some games either perform poorly or not at all on integrated chips even if it would run on a roughly equivalent dedicated card.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      That’s (if my – admittedly non-expert – experience programming OpenGL is anything to go by) mostly because integrated graphics cards don’t have as much work put into their drivers as dedicated cards.

      • The Sombrero Kid says:

        Intels drivers are generally really good it’s the hardware that’s rotten.

      • Baines says:

        When I looked at comparison stats in the past, integrated graphics traditionally cut corners pretty harshly in regards to shader cores. There are various other drawbacks to integrated graphics that make them less effective in specific situations, as well.

  6. King_Rocket says:

    #Corrections “Yes, like all other mainstream Intel CPUs, these things bave integrated graphics which you’re not gong to use.”

    Bave and gong.

    • rabbit says:

      Long live Bave and Gong!

    • that_guy_strife says:

      ”Or at least proffering ill-advised ultimatums about edible headgear.”

      Maybe it’s due to the lower manpower lately at Castle Shotgun, but missing words words and glaring typos have been popping up like crazy lately. Yes, it’s an absolutely minor quip, but it really hurts my eyes, because I’m such a grammar nazi. English isn’t even my second language.

      The articles are still quite well done on substance, but I do hope this starts getting better soon.

  7. xrror says:

    The cynic in me thinks that these only exist because of some sort of contractual obligation to OEMs when Intel promised at least two generations of processors would work on x9x chipsets all those months ago.

    I’m also hoping that I’m really wrong in my thought that the reason that Intel didn’t multiplier lock these processors is they don’t think that they can be overclocked enough with stability to be a serious threat to their higher margin SKUs.

    I really hope I’m wrong on that one… but Intel isn’t really known for giving away market-segment breaking performance for free. Example being there will never be an unlocked i3 – because an i3-xxxxK would … yea – gut all their other sales.

    • Sakkura says:

      These ARE higher-margin SKUs than the previously available alternatives, the Core i5-4690K and Core i7-4790K.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Agreed, most people eyeing broadwell are going to be Z97 owners looking to upgrade, otherwise its Haswell-E and a full new mobo. Still, most of the E’s oveclock over 4.5GHz, so if you are after pure power

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          Oh FFS for some reason my comment just auto-posted itself before I finished >:| BRING BACK EDIT ROWBLARGLBARGL

          As I was saying, if you are after more power AND cores, Haswell-E is that “higher margin SKU”

  8. Wedge says:

    I’m actually really interested in iGPU stuff since I have an interest in building ultra compact systems with a certain baseline of gaming capacity. It’s nice to see something that finally pushes past AMD’s iGPU’s… but unfortunately at a price that makes it meaningless. I’m curious if AMD will have any major upgrades to their iGPU tech to go with their new CPU line next year.

  9. Xzi says:

    Perfectly happy with my Haswell, so glad they didn’t make this a must-buy replacement.

  10. headless97 says:

    For desktop gamers, this doesn’t mean much of anything. We get dedicated GPUs and powerful processors and stuff. Even on a budget, it would probably be better to go for Intel’s sub-$100 dual core and a midrange GPU, if price/performance is your deal.

    What this really is, I think, is Intel trying to outdo AMD’s APUs, which have become powerful forces in mobile markets and consoles, since all three console manufacturers are currently using their tech. I’m happy to see AMD being properly competitive in some regard and I’m looking forward to their new processor in the hopes that it can outdo Intel’s flagships. That way, we could have some interesting hardware wars again, like the good old days. I’m not saying that I condone flagrant fanboying or anything, but I would like to see Intel have some real competition and not see AMD shoved to the side all the time.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Bit of a weird statement. AMD has no presence in the mobile (phones and tablets) market. They are only competing with Intel in the full size laptop market, for netbooks and ultrabooks its all Intel. Their console offerings are highly customised APUs that are paired with variations on a dedicated graphics card GPU as opposed to the iGPU cores found in consumer APUs. AMD’s APUs are anything but a powerful force outside of budget laptops and PCs.

      • yojimbojango says:

        I have a feeling that this is more Intel looking for areas where they haven’t completely dominated AMD yet. IGP was the only area where they have any pressure at all to compete, and even that’s not a huge market. There’s just nothing there pushing them forward anymore and they’re coasting for a bit on what they’ve got.

        • mattevansc3 says:

          At this moment in time Intel’s biggest competitor is ARM. They are making a renewed effort targeting the Android platform and are starting to make some inroads with Chromebooks. Regarding the Windows platform sadly they don’t have any competition.

  11. dysomniak says:

    Honestly, as the owner of a 3770K, this article made my day. While my 2x 770 SLI graphics setup may by starting to show it’s age a bit, at least I know there’s no reason to worry about a new CPU (and the attendant costs in MoBo and RAM) in the near future. For a while I was running at 4.2 GHz with a turbo speed of 4.7, all on a $40 tower cooler. But I stopped because it wasn’t actually improving my game performance over the stock speeds.

    • Whe3ze says:

      Believe it or not, a plain-jane 3770 can go all the way up to 4.2GHz through the bios or by using something like AI Suite TurboV Evo. You need a better cooler than stock but it works just fine.

  12. jezcentral says:

    I’m just relieved that Intel are shipping 14nm chips.

  13. vahnn says:

    I thought I remember hearing/reading somewhere that DX12 will be able to utilize a PC’s integrated graphics in addition to any gpus installed, which could possibly be a boon for these chips in the future.

  14. jacobvandy says:

    They’re only “baffling” because you set expectations for a new product release that were never intended to be met. Let it serve as a friendly reminder that Intel does cater to segments of the computing market other than high-end gaming… Die shrinks are a very good thing, and merely incorporating that into existing designs has several advantages. Even if that doesn’t include significant performance gains. What they do after that is take the 14nm process and use it to improve their next generation of chips across the board.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      I don’t think anyone needs this reminder, Intel doesn’t really do extreme-minded gaming chips ( AMD doesn’t either ).

      The enthusiast line is more into other lines of work, a gaming chip instead would be an affordable i5-i7 of the mainstream bracket BUT without the integrated GPU and more power and better heat design devoted to the CPU part alone, possibly coming with extended overclock headroom, all that you really need for a decent price. This could also come with a dedicated chipset that allows more PCI-E lanes, and thankfully at least Skylake is doing just that for the first time in the mainstream line.

      What Intel is actually doing since my “old” 2600k instead is trying to be aggressive in the GPU part, and that already is enough to realize they’re focusing on other markets. People claim that there aren’t many big increases between generation, but the reality is more troubling: there ARE incredible gains in the GPU part, too bad we don’t really care much about that.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Little clarification: off course the enthusiast line can be considered an extreme gaming solution if you clock the octacore to 5ghz, but that is starting to get into some serious budget.

        What i meant is that there are no budget options without an integrated GPU that can be pushed a LOT.

      • yojimbojango says:

        I guess you could also attribute the IGP focus on 4k and 5k monitors becoming more normal (especially in macs). They’re not really there for gaming, they’re for pushing a high res monitor that’s running photoshop on a tiny laptop, gaming is just a thing you get for free.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I can see the point in having integrated graphics for the i3 line, makes perfect sense.
      Some of the i5 chips, sure, but why add integrated graphics to an i7? the very cheapest i7 I can see is £230 and is a quad core 3.1GHz beast. If you’re buying a chip like that, why would you want integrated graphics?
      Ok, a server would benefit from having some basic integrated graphics, so you don’t need a graphics card just to check the BIOS (side note, Intel used to sell motherboards with ATI graphics chips for servers), but the vast majority of i7s are either going into gaming machines to be paired up with a graphics card, or a few might end up as workstations, which don’t need fast integrated graphics, just bog standard would be fine.
      So, why would someone buying an i7 want Iris 6000 graphics? Why not either ditch the iGPU and make the chip a bit cheaper, or just include a really basic, 2D only integrated GPU?

  15. racccoon says:

    I’m happy with my older Core i7-4790K 4.4GHz hyper quad, for this n next year anyway. :).

    • UncleLou says:

      What do you mean, “older”? Isn’t the 4790 barely a year old? :)

  16. ansionnach says:

    While I’m glad necessity forced me not to wait for this, the change to 14nm was quite a leap, and a necessary step before the next major architecture revision. I’m a bit surprised at the surprise in this article, since this tick-tock approach has been part of Intel’s strategy for the other core-iX processors as well. The one after Skylake will be largely the same, but smaller. Maybe it won’t take as long; they obviously bit off a bit too much at once with 22nm – 14nm.

  17. The Dark One says:

    I could see these as decent desktop chips, as long as you include all-in-one iMac clones in the desktop category.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Fallingbadgers says:

    A more suspicious person than I might muse that these were intended for the newly announced MacBook Pro Retina refresh which ended up sticking with Haswell but Intel had already started the production lines before Apple changed tack for whatever reason.

    • kael13 says:

      Oh yeaaah. That does actually make sense. Oh and I’d definitely skip this generation of MBP Retina, anyone thinking of getting one. Skylake should be exciting. Hopefully. At least, that’s what I trust Anand said before he left Anandtech to join Apple.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Much like their trashbin-shaped MacPro that lost the DDR4 train by just a couple of months.

      And no, rest assured that even if the gains are debatable Apple would totally have adopted them if only for the marketing boost alone.

  19. Det. Bullock says:

    I prefer this situation to how it was when I was in high school (my Pentium II became obsolete in four years and my 486 was obsolete in less than two), video cards can be swapped easily, RAM can be added without too much hassle, but swapping CPUs is much more complicated and costly and I’m kind of happy to know my i5-3470 is going to be still viable for some time, but then again it took me ten years to change my previous PC so perhaps I’m not as picky as others when it comes to gaming performances and it helps a lot that most games nowadays look gorgeus to me even with minimum details and resolution.

  20. mtomto says:

    Still stuck on my 2600k……………… come ooooooon!

    • Katar says:

      2600k bah. I’m still on an Q9550, when Skylake finally comes out (and AMD release 300 series cards) I’m upgrading no matter what the performance of the new chips is.

      Fingers crossed my finances don’t take an unexpected hit before August/September.

  21. CookPassBabtridge says:

    News just in: Intel logo to be rebranded to “hearing aid beige”

  22. theodacourt says:

    So I really don’t know what CPU to buy. I was waiting for these new ones to come out but it sounds like it’s not worth it? I’m stuck on an old 2500k and I really don’t know what to upgrade to. Is a 4790k a good choice? Literally no idea…

    • D70CW6 says:

      nothing worth upgrading to atm.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      What do you want to do with it? If you are a flight simmer I would say yes to 4790k in a heartbeat. Addons dependent, FSX, P3D and X-Plane are all very CPU hungry, even if the later ones can use your GPU too. For regular games don’t bother. Apart from a few titles everything is beiged down due to mainstream requirements.

      • theodacourt says:

        I guess I’m just playing normal games with it. It just feels like games like GTA V are talking like 3-5 full minutes to load sometimes, and I can only imagine it’s the CPU (I have a 970). Maybe I should wait, but it’s just getting frustrating.

        • emertonom says:

          The CPU isn’t much involved in load times. That’s mostly down to the storage medium if things are running properly.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Do like me and stretch it as far as you can, if we’re lucky we can upgrade just when the new USB stuff and PCI-E gen4 arrives.

      I personally wouldn’t even mind to start saving for a… Skylake-E. Yeah!

  23. The_invalid says:

    Can we just take a moment away from hating on the fact that these chips aren’t much faster, and marvel at the fact that Intel are working on a transistor process only 14 nanometres across? I find it absolutely incredible that we’re now engineering silicon at a size significantly smaller than your average viral organism, and we continue to do so in smaller and smaller scales. I for one am very glad I still don’t have to consider replacing my old CPU, but I can’t help but marvel at the sheer level of prowess these die-shrinks must take.

    • ansionnach says:

      I thought it was pretty cool as well. Considering the trouble they’ve had getting down to 14nm, overhauling the design as well would have been absolute madness. Their two-stage update pattern (size, then architecture) makes a lot of sense and they’ll reap the rewards in the future when their competitors struggle to reliably produce 14nm chips.

  24. nashathedog says:

    I don’t mind waiting for Skylake as the 4790k is a great chip but what annoys me is how when Devils canyon was released and the majority of Z87 boards would not accept the 4790k we were told how having to get Z97 wasn’t such a bad thing as it would be good for two gens when in truth there’s not really a proper second gen for Z97. This is how it went for me, I had a 4770k which was a bad overclocker with a 4.1 limit, Intels official site had my MSI G45 Z87 Gaming motherboard on the list of compatible boards for the 4790k so I pre-ordered a 4790k and sold my 4770k. On the Devils canyon release Intel scrubbed 80% of the motherboards from there compatibility list leaving me with a motherboard that did not recognise my new cpu. I tried the latest bio’s etc but had no joy, So because it was going to be “” Good for two gens, I decided to also get a new motherboards and that also meant another copy of Win 8.1 pro, making the total upgrade around 500 quid (UK). I wouldn’t of even thought about replacing the 4770k if I’d of known I’d get tricked and have to buy a motherboard, But to now get this news as well it makes it feel like I was taken for a fool so Thanks Intel, I hope Zen can compete.