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Intel Corp. this week officially released its new-generation Core i-series microprocessor based on Sandy Bridge micro-architecture. More than 500 desktop and laptop PCs are expected from all major OEMs worldwide throughout the year. The new chips sport a number of new features and a high-level of integration, which will enable new PC form-factors and levels of performance never-before-seen at certain price-points.

"The new Intel Core processors represent the biggest advance in computing performance and capabilities over any other previous generation. The built-in visual capabilities enabled by these new processors are stunning. This, combined with improved adaptive performance, will revolutionize the PC experience in a way that is obvious for every user to see and appreciate – visibly smarter performance," said Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager of PC client group at Intel.

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of entry-level standalone graphics cards even despite of the fact that the graphics engine of Sandy Bridge is morally outdated and only supports DirectX 10.1 API without any GPGPU capabilities. Still, thanks to integrated video decoders and encoders, the new CPU fully supports all major high-definition video standards, including Blu-ray 3D.

The first versions Intel Sandy Bridge chips will feature four cores with Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading technology as well as integrated graphics processor. Later this quarter the company's partners will start selling dual-core versions. 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 use LGA1155 form-factor and are compatible with platforms based on the Intel 6-series chipsets. Later this year Intel intends to release six-core flavours of Sandy Bridge.

The family of Sandy Bridge-based processors is very broad. Some of the chips feature unlocked multiplier and those are the only Sandy Bridge dual-core or quad-core microprocessors that can be overclocked on mainstream platforms.

Tags: Intel, 32nm


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