It looks like Intel is pulling out all the stops to increase power efficiency of their Haswell CPU range due to replace the current Ivy Bridge next year, increasing their lead over AMD yet further. According to leaked slides, the CPUs will feature something never seen before on an x86 CPU: voltage regulator modules (VRMs) integrated into the chip package and situated alongside the combined CPU/GPU core. This will reduce or eliminate the need for VRMs on the motherboard and allow for more fine grained power control of the CPU cores in order to reduce power usage by as much as possible. For example, incredibly, this can allow full high definition video playback with all CPU cores switched off! The graphics hardware in the CPU, along with the memory controller will handle all video playback functions instead.
Now, onboard VRMs might turn out to be a controversial feature, since it looks like it will give less scope for motherboard makers to make their own high performance CPU power circuits to help with overclocking for enthusiast users. However, from the various slides we saw back in September, Haswell will very much be an enthusiast oriented architecture, hence the fears are hopefully unfounded and we’ll actually get more overclockable chips out of this. We’ll just have to wait a few more months to find out definitively.
In a bid to make its chips even more power efficient than they are today, Intel has developed a special programmable chip with 20 power cells, reports PC Watch web-site. Each power cells is a mini VR with analogue circuits rated for up to 25A electric current and supporting up to 16 phases. Potentially, one 20-cell chip enables 320 power phases per CPU, which allows extreme granularity of power supply. Intel will install the integrated voltage regulator (IVR) chip, which will be made using 22nm process technology onto the same substrate with Haswell microprocessors.