Articles: CPU

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Over the past few years the computer technology has changed its course towards integration and the corresponding miniaturization. And it refers not that much to the traditional desktop personal computers, but primarily to the gigantic variety of “consumer” devices, such as smartphones, notebooks, players, tablets, etc., which get reborn in new form-factors and absorb more new functions. As for the desktops, they are the last to get under the influence of this tendency. Of course, over the past few years the users became more interested in computer devices of smaller size, but we can’t claim that it has turned into a global tendency. The basic microarchitecture of x86-systems implies that we should use individual components for a processor, memory, graphics card, mainboard and disk sub-system, and this major concept remains unchanged up until now. However, it sets serious restrictions for the miniaturization process. Yes, we can reduce the size of each individual component, but it won’t add up to significantly change the overall system dimensions.

However, we seem to be getting closer to a turning point even in the PC segment. As they continue to master finer production technologies, it becomes easier to move into the processors certain functions of other devices, which used to be individual components. For example, no one is surprised anymore that the memory controller and in some cases the PCI Express bus controller have long become part of the CPU and the mainboard chipset transformed into one single chip – the South Bridge. But something else happened in 2011, something of much greater significance – they started integrating a graphics controller into processors for high-performance desktop systems. And these were not some weak graphics cores, which could only support the operating system interface. On the contrary, these were quite functional solutions, which could compare in performance with entry-level discrete graphics accelerators and are most likely much more powerful than all the graphics cores previously integrated into the chipsets.

Intel was the pioneer in these unchartered waters and released their Sandy Bridge processors with the integrated Intel HD Graphics core in the beginning of this year. Although they believed that only the mobile PC users will really appreciate high-quality integrated graphics, that’s why they offered a cut-down modification of this core for the desktop users. Later AMD proved how wrong they were by launching their desktop Fusion processors with fully-fledged Radeon HD graphics cores inside. These products have quickly become popular not only in the office environment, but also as a basis for inexpensive home systems, which encouraged Intel to revise their attitude to the future of CPUs with integrated graphics inside. The company refreshed their desktop Sandy Bridge CPU line-up by adding processor models with faster Intel HD Graphics modification. As a result, those users who would like to put together a compact integrated system will have to make up their mind about the platform preferences. Today we will do our best to make choosing a processor with this or that integrated graphics accelerator as easy as possible.

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