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Intel responds to cooked power efficiency claims

The company's claims about power efficiency for its new Ivy Bridge chips involved some fancy marketing footwork.

Intel announced its new low-power Ivy Bridge chips on Monday at CES.
Intel announced its new low-power Ivy Bridge chips on Monday at CES. CNET

LAS VEGAS--Intel came clean today about the power efficiency for the new Ivy Bridge chips announced at CES on Monday.

At its CES event, Intel claimed that new power-frugal Y series Ivy Bridge processors were rated at 7 watts -- a remarkable feat on its face, as that's 10 watts less than standard low-power Ivy Bridge chips rated at 17 watts.

It turns out, Intel did some fancy marketing footwork in order to claim the 7-watt rating, as Ars Technica pointed out.

Below is Intel's statement provided to CNET. The operative phrase is: "The TDP of the Y-processors is 13W." So, by Intel's historical power rating standard (TDP, short for thermal design power), the chips are actually 13 watts not 7. According to Intel:

Scenario design power (SDP) is an additional thermal reference point meant to represent mainstream touch-first usages. It balances performance and mobility across PC and tablet workloads to extend capabilities into thin, thermally-constrained designs.

The Mobile Y-processors have multiple design points providing maximum design flexibility for our customers to continue to push the envelope in terms of form factor innovation. The TDP of the Y-processors is 13W which is a 24 percent reduction from TDP of our lowest 3rd gen Intel Core processors today. In addition to the TDP reduction, the Y-processors also have an additional thermal reference point, namely scenario design power (SDP), which provides a balance of performance vs. design power for mainstream touch-first usages and operates at 7W.

This statement also calls into question whether the next-generation Haswell processors will use the new SDP rating and not the more traditional TDP yardstick. Intel has been saying that Haswell will be rated below 10 watts too.

Intel obviously feels compelled to use a new power rating standard to better reflect power efficiency. The confusion is rooted in the lack of consistency.