How useful are newer processors?

Consumers are moving with gusto to tablets, ultrabooks or convertibles, which combine elements of each, all to the detriment of the PC market. People now want mobility with long battery life. Are modern processors up to the task?

A lot of the new CPUs are powerful, with better graphics and lower energy consumption than their predecessors.

At least that’s what the manufacturers say. Intel’s entry is the Haswell, a fourth-generation core-i processor. AMD has its Richland processor, a third-generation A-series processor.

Extended battery life is almost as important as performance to some. Compactness is also key for people who want the thinnest device possible, making system-on-a-chip (SoC) options popular.

With Intel’s new Haswell, the I7 is top tier, while the i5 is mid-range and the i3 is entry-level.

The new CPUs can be recognized by the fact that their registration numbers begin with a 4, as in the i7 CPU 4770K. The K means that performance has been optimized; a U means it is for ultrabooks, while Y indicates an energy-saving version.

The new Haswells have the potential to save more energy while working faster, says Benjamin Benz of German computer magazine c’t.

But it’s not a giant jump in performance: only about 10 to 20 per cent more speed than the predecessor generation is obtainable.
”That’s barely noticeable with standard software,” he says.

Graphics cards integrated into the CPU have seen a doubling in performance, though that’s not necessarily enough for modern games, indicating that the days of dedicated graphics chips are not yet past.

AMD has opted for a model it terms an accelerated processing unit (APU), which is a chip with both a CPU and GPU.

”The APU is the processor of the future,” says AMD spokesman Maik Matischak, looking at the way computers will be used in the future.

Those future uses would include smaller, more mobile devices, meaning limited space for chips, even as demand for speed and performance rise.

AMD’s Richland processors generally come in an A8 or A10 model, with the A10-6800K the top of the line. German computer magazine Chip says it sees them being used in mini PCs and all-in-one computers, where space for a dedicated graphics card would be limited.

Experts say Richland has a slight edge because of its integrated graphics card, which provides some basic graphics capabilities.
However, its FX line of processors for desktops will not have an integrated GPU. (dpa)