The vast majority of computer users barely understand what a Central Processing Unit (CPU) is, let alone which one is inside their device of choice. The intricate details of CPUs (also known as microprocessors) are generally arcane and best left to the enthusiasts who argue endlessly over L1/L2 cache latencies on tech forums. However, every once in a while an innovation comes down the pike which actually has the potential to shift how many of us accomplish our computing and the best candidate for this type of revolution right now is Intel’s soon to be released Haswell family of CPUs.

Haswell Is Engineered for a Remarkable Latitude of Systems

This is not one of those tech forums so I will spare you the nerdgasms of describing the intricacies of Haswell’s 1.5K µop cache as it relates to the 56 entry instruction decode queue. The essence of the impact that Haswell will have on computing as a whole can readily be discussed without calling out the Geek Squad. Haswell is the latest in Intel’s evolution of CPUs and has been engineered to fulfill a remarkable latitude of applications. Haswell will arrive in variants which are suitable for extremely low power battery saving CPUs for ultrabooks, as well as more conventional desktop models where there is ample juice available from the tap. One of the most remarkable aspects of Haswell’s architecture is that the performance differential from the versions which sip the juice as opposed to the ones that gulp it are amazingly small.

L.A. to Paris on a Single Laptop Charge?

Haswell can legitimately be called the first CPU family that brings true desktop computing capabilities to the smallest laptops. One of Haswell’s crowning triumphs is the microprocessor’s ability to reduce platform idle power twenty-fold which should have a massive impact on how long your laptop will be able to operate. If you thought that keeping your laptop alive right through that Los Angeles to Paris flight was a fantasy, wait until you have a Haswell CPU powering it.

Haswell’s Integrated Graphics Stood Up to a GT650M Gaming Comparison

Equally important is Haswell’s incorporation of what many observers have claimed is Intel’s first truly worthwhile integrated Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). While a CPU crunches the bytes that make your computer compute, a GPU gets all those pixels to fire in the right sequence on your screen so you can actually see what’s going on. The current integrated Intel Ivy Bridge GPUs, however, suffer mightily when the user places greater demand on graphics processing as in the case of modeling, rendering or gaming. Most hard-core gamers were massively unimpressed by the lack of performance by Intel’s current on die GPUs when applied to highly demanding games such as Far Cry 3 or Battlefield 3. Haswell has a good shot at changing their minds as was witnessed in the recent public comparison by Intel of Haswell with the top GT3 graphics running Dirt 3 as compared side by side with a similar PC running NVidia’s powerful GeForce GT650M (a separate discrete video card). Most testers found the two games to run essentially in an indistinguishable manner which speaks volumes for Intel’s phenomenal graphics evolution.

Where Haswell has the potential to truly change computing is in how it frees up computer system designers at both ends of the desktop and laptop equation. The laptop engineers will be able to offer the user a truly immersive and capable desktop type experience in systems blessed with extremely long battery life, while the desktop enthusiasts will be able to take advantage of highly-technical performance improvements with alphabet soup monikers of FMA3, AVX2 and TSX, which can double or even triple (!!!) overall system responsiveness. All it will take is for the software to catch up with the remarkable performance of the hardware… and applications which may now seem like science fiction will be on our desktops and laptops. Later this year demanding computer users will be able to find out for themselves just how revolutionary Haswell is, and how historians may look upon it as the first step in the next generation of wide-latitude computing.