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Intel Reveals Sandy Bridge Processor Details

Laptops and desktops running the next-generation microarchitecture, expected to ship in early 2011, will see a performance boost from the merger of graphics and x86 cores on a single die, Intel claims.
Intel says laptops and desktops powered by the company's next-generation microarchitecture, which merges graphics and x86 cores on a single die, will be available early next year.

Codenamed Sandy Bridge, the 32-nanometer processor, which goes into production later this year, will also be the first to support new vector graphics. Details of Sandy Bridge were released Monday at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

The Sandy Bridge architecture marks the second generation of Intel's Core processor family, which include the Core i3, i5 and i7 chips. Computer makers are expected to ship laptops and desktops running Sandy Bridge chips early next year, Dadi Perlmutter, executive VP and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, said during his keynote.

"Our upcoming second generation Intel Core processor family represents the biggest advance in computing performance and capabilities over any previous generation," Perlmutter said in a statement. "In addition to offering these features inside Intel-based laptops, we plan to scale these advances across our server data center and embedded computing product portfolio."

Sandy Bridge is the first Intel microarchitecture to combine the graphics processor and x86 cores in a single die. Previous architectures had the graphics chip embedded in the motherboard.

The new design boosts performance by allowing the CPU and graphics to share the same resources, such as cache and memory reservoir, according to Intel. While upping performance, the new architecture also is more energy efficient than previous generations.

Other firsts in Sandy Bridge include Intel's new Advanced Vector Extension to the x86 instruction set. AVX is expected to improve processors' performance in handling floating-point intensive calculations in general applications that process images, video and audio, and in engineering applications that provide 3-D modeling and analysis, scientific simulation, and financial analytics.

Sandy Bridge, which will replace Intel's current 45-nanometer microarchitecture, codenamed Nehalem, will go head-to-head with rival Advanced Micro Devices's new core designs scheduled for release next year. Codenamed Bulldozer and Bobcat, the new architectures also combine the CPU and graphics cores on a single die. Bulldozer is aimed at high-performance desktops, workstations and servers, while Bobcat is targeted at low-power laptops and small-form factor desktops.

Perlmutter on Monday also demonstrated at IDF a dual-core, next-generation Xeon processor running a two-socket server. Chips based on the 32-nanometer architecture are scheduled for production in the second half of next year. Processors built for two-socket servers and workstations will run 8 cores and 16 threads per processor.


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