Is Intel’s Crystalwell being strangled to death?

OEMs seem to have better options

Intel - logoRemember Crystalwell, Intel’s RAM on package for Haswell? Remember when we said that OEMs were not pleased with the pricing? It seems that Intel may have overreached a bit on that front.

SemiAccurate has been canvasing OEMs and system builders trying to gauge interest in Haswell GT3 and Crystalwell, and has found precious little of it, interest that is. Actually, that is not quite true, potential customers are very interested, but the price is more effective than a cold shower at quelling these feelings. This has become so acute that we actually can’t find anyone who has plans to use it.

Last time SemiAccurate called around, there was mostly grumbling and hopes that pricing would change. Intel is pricing the part at $50-60 more than a GT3 Haswell without Crystalwell, and that pretty much makes it a complete non-starter for everyone. Why? Adding Crystalwell to a Haswell GT3 costs those OEMs more than adding a discrete GPU and memory to a Haswell GT3.

As we said in the earlier articles, there very well might be good technical reasons for this pricing, but with zero customers, it doesn’t seem like all that much of a winning combination. The only OEM of note that SemiAccurate can’t pin down on this is Apple, probably the most likely customer. That said, unless Intel radically drops the price for only Apple, we see them being wise enough to make the same choice too. Even then, driving the MacBook resolution with ‘retina’ display is going to be pretty difficult to achieve even with GT3 + Crystalwell, and pricing precludes it from lower models.

One counter argument that Intel has been trying is that Crystalwell drops power use in addition to the GPU speed increase. That is what Intel was showing at the IDF keynote, 10W for GT3 + Crystalwell, 17W for an Ivy Bridge with only a fraction of the GPU performance. OEMs are a bit skeptical of this, once again not because of the tech, but because the extra BOM costs. The difference between the Intel solution and buying a discrete part and memory will buy a lot of battery and heat sink capacity. In short, nothing about Haswell GT3 + Crystalwell pricing makes sense, it is almost as if, as we speculated, Intel doesn’t want to sell many.

There is a reason why Intel is pricing these parts the way they do, they are so far out of line that it is literally strangling the product, something that can’t be lost on them. In our view, if Apple moves high rez displays down the price stack in their normal fashion, Crystalwell won’t have any major customers, just a few niche players. At that point, does the lack of volume break the economics of production for Intel? It would be really sad if this pretty amazing technology died an ignominious death this generation for marketing games.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate