Intel Corp. said on Tuesday that it had begun sampling of its code-named Sandy Bridge processors with customers in Q1 2010, about a year ahead of the actual commercial product launch. In addition, the company indicated that its 32nm fabrication process technology is the fastest manufacturing process ever.
Thousands of Sandy Bridge Processors Shipping Now
“We began volume sampling [of Sandy Bridge processors] in Q1, shipping thousands of samples to a broad range of customers and we are planning [to begin] volume production later this year,” said Paul Otellini, chief executive officer and president of Intel.
The first Intel Sandy Bridge chips will feature two or four cores with Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading technology as well as integrated graphics processor that will actually be on the same die as the x86 cores, according to previous reports. The chips will address mainstream market segments currently served by Intel Core i7, Core i5 and Core i3 processors, hence, there will be a lot of different models with 65W (dual-core, quad-core) or 95W (quad-core) thermal design power, according to documents seen by X-bit labs. The new processors will use LGA1155 form-factor and will be compatible with platforms based on the Intel 6-series chipsets code-named Cougar Point. It is noteworthy that while the new 6-series mainstream chipsets support Serial ATA-600 and some other innovations, the USB 3.0 does not seem to be a capability of the core-logic.
The key feature of Sandy Bridge Intel AVX (Advanced Vector Extensions) which, when used by software programmers, will increase performance in floating point, media, and processor intensive software, according to the Intel. Key features of Intel AVX include wider vectors, increasing from 128 bit to 256 bit wide, resulting in up to 2x peak FLOPs output; enhanced data rearrangement, resulting in allowing data to be pulled more efficiently, and three operand, non-destructive syntax for a range of benefits. Intel AVX can also increase energy efficiency beyond the increases brought by the micro-architectural innovations, and is backwards compatible to existing Intel processors.
Some reports claim that six-core and eight-core Sandy Bridge-based designs will become available in Q2 2011 or later, hence, Intel is taking the same strategy as with Westmere micro-architecture and plans to initiate production of less complex processors first with higher-end models following later. The SNB processors will be made using proven 32nm fabrication process, which means that production ramp of the chips may be extremely quick.
32nm – Fastest Ramping Process Technology for Intel
While many other companies are struggling with 45nm/40nm process technologies and even cancel 32nm fabrication processes, thanks to new materials that Intel uses to manufacturing its chips using 32nm process technology, the company claims that the 32nm production ramp is the fastest in its history.
“In our manufacturing environment our factory teams have executed the ramp of our 32nm process superbly. We exceeded output expectations with lower costs than originally anticipated and are currently shipping over fifty SKUs on 32nm process. 32nm is our fastest ramping process ever and I am pleased to note we are accelerating the ramp of our third and fourth 32nm factories faster than our original plan, such that by early Q4 we will have four factories in production on 32nm,” said Mr. Otellini.
According to Stacy Smith, chief financial officer of the world’s largest chipmaker, in the first quarter Intel ended up shipping more 32nm microprocessors than it first planned, which is the result of resurrection of demand towards personal computers.
Intel on Tuesday reported first-quarter revenue of $10.3 billion and operating income of $3.4 billion, net income of $2.4 billion and earning per share of 43 cents.