Intel's new chips need power supplies that can handle less, not more, power

Probably one of the worst-kept secrets in the computer industry is the development of the new Intel Haswell processors. Designed to replace the current generation of Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors, the new chips are expected to cut CPU consumption to just .05 amps.

Regardless of form factor, the chips are expected to produce at least a 10 percent CPU performance increase due to having eight execution ports per core over the current six, and double the performance of the integrated GPU. The Haswell chips achieve this improvement at the same time as lowering power consumption, a bit of technological magic from Intel.

On the desktop side, the extra performance and lower power consumption will likely be embraced by agencies.

But while using less power will help meet federal energy-reducing goals, it could actually become a problem for desktop builds. That’s because current power supplies are not necessarily designed to be able to deliver stable power at very low loads. It’s possible that when trying to deliver such a low voltage, a power supply may not be able to deliver it with enough precision, resulting in dirty, spiked or unreliable power getting through.

In fact, most power supply manufacturers don’t even list the minimum load levels their units can sustain, given that until now, the emphasis has been on how many devices could be connected and how much power could be delivered. In fact, it’s a safe bet that many current power supplies won’t be able to properly drive Haswells due to the low-end power requirements.

One company, Enermax, has announced an entire line of desktop power supplies that are ready to handle the Haswell low-power needs.

Called a ZERO Load Design, they are equipped with a DC-to-DC converter that enables stable voltages even at 0W loads. In fact, because of the unique design of most Enermax power supplies, many of their existing units, like the Revolution85+, which was released in 2008, are already set to supply reliable low power feeds to Haswell chips.

It’s a good bet that once the new chips are released in June, manufacturers will be scrambling to release Haswell-compatible power supplies. In the meantime, at least one company is hitting the ground running.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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