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Graphics To Be Faster

At this point Intel claims that their new integrated graphics core will be significantly more advanced than the current Intel HD Graphics 2000/3000 cores. It is very important to understand that in this aspect, we don’t have just a regular microarchitectural “tick”. On the graphics side it more like a "tick and a half", because it will have microarchitectural enhancements, alongside with new features, improved heat dissipation and power consumption.

Even if we don’t go too deep into details, things seem really great from the user prospective. In particular, the graphics performance is expected to increase by about 60%, which may put Ivy Bridge side by side with Llano, i.e. Intel will be offering us a fully-functional APU of their own. Moreover, it will be so mature that it will even support DirectX 11 – the today’s latest API, and even OpenCL 1.1 via the GPU. It is particularly important, because in this case Ivy Bridge will allow using graphics cores to solve computational tasks – a feature that AMD APUs have from day one.

The graphics core microarchitecture is shown on the slide below:

As we can see, Intel split the graphics core into 5 domains: Global Assets (including Geometry front-end), Slice Common (including the rasterizer and pixel back-end), Slice (shaders), Codex and Media, and Displays. In fact, this domain layout has been implemented to make it easier for the developers to work with each domain separately in order to improve the overall performance for the new core modifications based on the same microarchitecture, as well as cutting off individual blocks for lower-cost modifications.

The microarchitectural improvements also include the straight-forward increase in the number of execution units aimed at increasing the overall performance. Sandy Bridge has a maximum of 12 units, while Ivy Bridge will have a maximum of 16. Moreover, each of these units will be able to process two instructions per clock cycle. Also, they intent to add an individual L3 cache to the graphics core, which will also have a positive effect on performance. Besides, the graphics core acquired hardware tessellation units and Shader Array support (which, actually, ensures the compatibility with Shader Model 5.0 and DirectX 11). In any case, Intel intends to improve graphics performance compared with what we received from Sandy Bridge by about 60%, and we don’t see anything that cold prevent them from doing it.

In fact, we only mentioned a few major improvements to be introduced in the new graphics core, but there will also be a lot of minor improvements there. The next slide from the today’s presentation will describe them best:

You may be wondering, what about Quick Sync? Of course, Intel didn’t forget about it and Ivy Bridge is going to bring us a second version of this technology. It will offer better performance and additional features applied during video stream processing, such as color and contrast enhancement filters, for example. As for the transcoding speed, Ivy Bridge should work about twice as fast as Sandy Bridge. And by the way, the new Quick Sync version will support multi-view codec, which is a key-feature for stereoscopic 3D support.

Of course, image display functionality will also become much more advanced. If the new Ivy Bridge processors are used in the mainboards built on the upcoming core logic sets, they will be able to display image on three independent monitors (while Sandy Bridge supports only two). Ivy Bridge will also support HDMI 1.4 with Stereo 3D.

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