Every new generation of central processing units (CPUs) brings improved performance as well as enhanced set of features. Some generations bring breakthrough changes to computing and some just pass some incremental benefits. According to Intel Corp.'s chief executive officer, the next-generation Core i "Sandy Bridge" chips will bring improvements analogous to what the Pentium was compared to 80486 back in 1993.
"The Sandy Bridge is a 486 to Pentium kind of jump. What the Pentium did was enable the beginning of the multimedia (computing) era by virtues of capabilities built into it. It was the right product at the right time. We are now about to move to the era of visualization - we may be in the middle of that movement today- where everything is about video whether it is consumer or corporate. It is going to be about not just watching video, but sharing video and video conferencing. [...] What this product was engineered for was the optimized video visual experience," said Paul Otellini, chief executive officer and president of Intel, during his speech at COMDEXvirtual.
As is known, Intel Core i "Sandy Bridge" processors, which will be officially launched on the 5th of January, 2011, at the Consumer Electronics Show, integrate highly improved graphics processing core that can compete against entry-level discrete graphics cards. Intel failed to create a competitive standalone graphics processor and had to substantially boost performance of Sandy Bridge's graphics core to provide proper performance in modern multimedia applications and also jump onto the GPGPU bandwagon kick started by ATI (AMD) and Nvidia several years ago.
"I think that things that would take you minutes to do on our latest [Core i 2010] chip that we are shipping today will be seconds on Sandy Bridge in terms of video compression. It really is a revolution in this (video) area. And when you look at the integration of the graphics (on a single chip) it just makes it even better," added Mr. Otellini.
Intel has already initiated mass production of Sandy Bridge family of microprocessors and has also started to ship the chips for revenue.
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. There will be a lot of different desktop models with 35W, 65W (dual-core, quad-core) or 95W (quad-core) thermal design power. The new processors will use LGA1155 form-factor and will only be compatible with platforms based on the Intel 6-series chipsets.
The two key improvements of Sandy Bridge are a new integrated graphics core with much increased performance as well as Intel AVX (Advanced Vector Extensions) technology 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.
Thanks to much improved performance of built-in graphics core of Sandy Bridge, system makers will be able to drop low-end integrated graphics from ATI or Nvidia, which will reduce their costs and will boost profitability. Analyst also expect high-speed integrated graphics to dramatically affect the market of entry-level standalone graphics cards.