Intel Sandy Bridge: Quad-Core Comes First

Intel Wants Quad-Core in Performance-Mainstream

by Anton Shilov
12/16/2010 | 09:36 PM

Intel Corp. wants to show its next-generation Core i "Sandy Bridge" processors in the best possible light from performance point of view, which is why the company plans to release quad-core versions of the chips first and only then there will be dual-core and single-core versions available.


"Sandy Bridge is the best product we have ever built. The demand is very strong on it. [...] We will start out with the quad-core parts of the family and then move very rapidly during the first quarter [of 2011] to ship the dual-core and single-core versions. A full line, very fast ramp on our most advanced silicon technology," said Paul Otellini, chief executive officer of Intel, at the Barclay's Capital Technology Conference 2010 last week.

It is generally rational for Intel to focus on performance of Sandy Bridge microprocessors. The chip has a number of innovations that increase performance rather substantially as well as a new generation of DirectX 10.1-class of graphics core. Even though Sandy Bridge is a very power efficient chip, Intel wants to focus on its performance, not on efficiency and new features that it can unlock for small form-factor systems.

Apparently, Intel not only wants, but demands its partners to show off quad-core Intel Core 2000-series "Sandy Bridge" processors at the Consumer Electronics Show and only demonstrate systems based on dual-core and single-core systems in February or later. The demonstration of ultra-fast 15" or 17" notebooks featuring Sandy Bridge at the CES may indicate Intel's wish to address the market of performance-hungry users seeking for a mobile PC rather than business customers.

"Quad core goes live in January, dual-core goes live in February. OEMs are going to be going public with their quad-core laptops [at CES], but they cannot go public with their dual-core laptops until mid-February," a source with knowledge of the matter told Cnet News.

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.

The first versions 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 be on the same die as the x86 cores. 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.