Intel accused of releasing misleading figures for its new Ivy Bridge microprocessors

By Graeme Burton
11 Jan 2013 View Comments
Intel Atom Z2760

Intel has been accused of releasing misleading power consumption and performance figures for its new line of Ivy Bridge microprocessors, which are intended to bridge the gap between high-performance desktop and laptop microprocessors, and the microprocessors used in more power-efficient mobile devices.

The Y-Series Ivy Bridge range was formally released at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada this week. Intel claims that it offers power consumption of just seven watts - still much higher than competing microprocessors designed by ARM, but considerably more efficient than past Intel microprocessor lines.

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The current line of Ivy Bridge microprocessors consume 17 watts as measured in terms of actual thermal design power metrics, and Intel is claiming that its new Y-Series Ivy Bridge microprocessors has knocked 10 watts off this figure - implying that the company is fast catching up with ARM in terms of power consumption.

However, while claiming clock speeds of up to 2.6 gigahertz (GHz) for its top-of-the-range Core i7 Ivy Bridge microprocessors, the lower power consumption can only be achieved by considerably stepping down the clock speeds of these parts and using a different metric.

Its entry-level Pentium 2129Y microprocessor boasts a clock speed of just 1.1GHz and lacks hyper-threading and a "turbo mode". It can achieve power consumption of 10 watts in thermal design power, but 7 watts in Intel's new metric - "scenario design power", which Intel claims is a real-world measure of the average power the microprocessor will consume in ordinary usage.

On a like-for-like basis, the Y-Series Ivy Bridge parts boast power consumption of 13 watts in thermal design power, just four watts more efficient than the current Ivy Bridge range.

An in-depth examination by tech' site ArsTechnica concluded: "Intel has saved power in its new Y-series CPUs in the least surprising way possible - not through improvements to the 22 nanometre manufacturing process or aggressive processor binning, but through clock speed reductions and some fancy marketing footwork."

Intel's claims are significant because it is facing growing pressure from mobile devices - both tablet computers and smartphones - while demand for desktop PCs and laptops is falling, according to figures for the fourth quarter of 2012.

One of the driving forces behind the sale of tablet computers and smartphones is price, partly due to the use of non-wintel hardware and software. ARM-based microprocessors will typically sell for less than one-tenth of the average price of an Intel i-series microprocessor, while the Android operating system is free.

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