Intel’s new ‘Haswell’ chip might not set the world alight, but one cannot question the price / performance on offer in this mainstream CAD workstation.

Bolton-based Scan presents a brand new technology this month — Intel’s ‘Haswell’ CPU or, to give it its official title, 4th Generation Intel Core.

Product spec
  • Quad Core Intel Core i5 3570K ‘Haswell’ CPU (3.4GHz overclocked to 4.2GHz)
  • 16GB (2 x 8GB) Corsair DDR3 (1,600MHz) memory
  • Nvidia Quadro K2000 (2GB GDDR5) GPU (320.00 driver)
  • 240GB PNY Prevail SSD + 2TB 7,200RPM Seagate Barracuda 6Gb/s SATA HDD
  • Asus Z87-K (Intel Z87 chipset) motherboard
  • Microsoft Windows 8 Professional 64-bit
  • 3 year warranty - 1st year onsite, 2nd and 3rd year return to base (parts & labour)
  • £1,230

To the backdrop of Intel’s annual ‘tick-tock’ chip delivery model, Haswell is big news. While last year’s ‘Ivy Bridge’ was a mere ‘tick’, denoting a shrinking of 2011’s ‘Sandy Bridge’ architecture, Haswell’s ‘tock’ heralds the arrival of a brand new chip architecture.

Haswell comes with a number of new features, many of which are targeted at reducing power consumption, therefore having the biggest impact on mobile devices where battery life is king. There have also been some interesting security enhancements co-developed with Intel subsidiary, McAfee.

For desktop CAD, however, performance will always be the critical metric and clock for clock Haswell offers a noticeable performance boost over Ivy Bridge.

The downside comes if you want to overclock the ‘K’ model Haswell chips, as Scan does as a matter of course in most of its 3XS workstations.

Because Haswell generates more heat than Ivy Bridge it cannot be overclocked to the same speeds. Scan comfortably ramps up its Ivy Bridge Core i5-3570K workstations to 4.4GHz but only achieves 4.2GHz with a Haswell Core i5-4670K.

This means there is very little difference in terms of performance between Scan’s Haswell and Ivy Bridge workstations, backed up in our CAD benchmark tests.

In our 3ds Max Design test, however, we saw something very interesting: the render time with Haswell dropped by 15%. We cannot put our finger on why this is but, as we look at more Haswell machines in the coming months, we hope to shed some light on it.

It is worth pointing out here that a £70 upgrade to a Core i7 4770K should help cut ray trace rendering times by approximately 15% due to support for Intel Hyper-Threading, which adds four virtual cores to the standard four cores.

Beyond the CPU, Haswell also includes some enhancements to the integrated graphics chip with the introduction of Intel HD Graphics 4600. While this new GPU is claimed to be up to 60 percent faster than the previous Intel HD Graphics 4000, Intel still has a fair way to go before it can turn the heads of serious 3D CAD users. As a result, Scan has included an Nvidia Quadro K2000D, a specialist version of the Quadro K2000 graphics card, which features 2 x DVI ports instead of the standard 2 x DisplayPort and 1 x DVI port, saving £20.

The Quadro K2000D is a big step up from the Quadro K600 we tested in Scan’s Ivy Bridge workstation last issue, making it a much more powerful all round option for mainstream CAD and BIM.

With 2GB GDDR5 memory and double the number of CUDA processing cores it can handle some pretty sizeable datasets, and still deliver smooth model rotation.

For storage, Scan has opted for a professional Solid State Drive (SSD), the impressive 240GB PNY Prevail Endurance. In typical Scan style, this has been partnered with a 2TB Seagate Barracuda Hard Disk Drive (HDD), which offers plenty of capacity for hefty CAD datasets.

For those who already own an overclocked ‘Ivy Bridge’ workstation this new 3XS GW-MT15 does not really give a compelling reason to upgrade. The general performance improvements of the new Haswell architecture are throttled by its limited overclocking speeds.

But if your workstation is a few years old, perhaps sporting one of the first generation Intel Core processors, then this is an enviable upgrade for mainstream CAD. And at a price point of just over £1,200, it offers exceptional value.

Haswell, Intel’s fourth generation core CPU

Haswell is one big happy family of processors, including desktop, mobile and server. For desktop CAD and BIM, however, there are probably only a handful of suitable options.

Choose Intel Core i5 chips for pure CAD / BIM work.

Choose Intel Core i7 for CAD /BIM plus rendering, (support for Intel Hyper-Threading should give a 15% performance boost) .

Choose ‘K’ model CPUs if you want to overclock your chip as these are unlocked by Intel specifically to allow users to pump up that all-important GHz.

ProcessorCore i5-4570Core i5-4670Core i5-4670KCore i7-4770Core i7-4770K
Base frequency 3.2GHz 3.4GHz 3.4GHz 3.4GHz 3.5GHz
Turbo Mode 3.6GHz 3.8GHz 3.8GHz 1 3.9GHz 3.9GHz 1
# CPU cores 4 4 4 4 4
# CPU threads 2 4 4 4 8 8
L3 Cache 6MB 6MB 6MB 8MB 8MB
Price 3 £131 £144 £158 £204 £229

1 Chip unlocked to allow overclocking
2 Enabled by Intel Hyper-Threading
3 Prices taken from on 27/6/13