Sandy Bridge chips to take notebooks into the future, says Intel

New architecture shrinks graphics processor to 32nm and onto the processor itself

When Intel engineers began thinking about designing a new chip architecture, they first decided to reconsider the way they think about laptops .

Intel executives have been rolling out demos and specs of Sandy Bridge, the company's new microprocessor architecture, at the company's annual Intel Developer Forum (IDF) conference in San Francisco on Monday.

The chip maker is expected to begin producing the new family of chips later this year, and computer makers are expected to begin announcing their new Sandy Bridge-powered machines in the first quarter of 2011.

The first of the new chips, which officially will be named Second Generation Intel Core chips, will be for laptops and desktops. Server and workstation chips are set to be released in the second half of next year, said Intel's vice president and director of PC Client Operations and Enabling, Stephen Smith.

"Before we started in on Sandy Bridge, we looked at where clients are going," Smith told Computerworld. "It's about this transition from desktop to mobile as the predominant form factor. Right now there are more notebooks being sold than desktops. When we optimized Sandy Bridge, we optimized it for the notebook form factor. We wanted the highest performance and the best power efficiency."

And to do that, Smith said engineers decided that the graphics chip needed to be brought onto a 32 nanometer design and buily into the processor.

With Intel's Core i Series , which is the current family of Intel chips, the graphics and processor are in a multi-chip package. In Sandy Bridge, however, the processor core and the graphics will all be on the same die.

That means that Intel Turbo Boost technology, which was introduced in the Core i Series, will now work on graphics, as well as the processor.

Turbo Boost is a feature designed to automatically turn cores on and off as needed. Now, the feature only affects the processing cores. With Sandy Bridge, that will change and graphics will get a significant boost.

"If you're in the middle of playing a game and the machine is drawing, it will send more power to the graphics portion," Smith said. "But if you're rendering a 3D drawing before it throws the image on the screen, more power will go to the processor..."

"Clearly, the most dramatic difference is pulling the graphics and media onto 32nm. That gives us much higher performance in the same processor package and thermal envelope," Smith said.

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said building the graphics into the processor should give Sandy Bridge chips a solid performance improvement over the current Core i Series.

"Combining the CPU and GPU into a single package also will save power and cut the amount of heat generated as compared to having discrete packaging -- not to mention the overall cost to notebook vendors," said Olds. "This might herald a change in thinking for Intel."

"It used to be that integrated graphics were synonymous with cheap and low-quality graphics. But now I think that Intel gets it, and understands that today's workloads are much more graphically intense and require better graphics performance," Olds said.

While Smith would not release any performance metrics for Sandy Bridge, he did say that the new chips will be quite a bit faster than nearly all of the Core i Series chips. However, the new dual-core and quad-core chips will not be able to compete with the Core i7 Extreme chip that is available now.

Smith said Sandy Bridge will have an extreme version of its own at some point, but would not even specify if it will come out next year.

He also would not say how many cores that extreme Sandy Bridge chip might have.

"They will need all the speed they can muster in order to satisfy customer demand for editing, posting, and viewing video files," Olds said. "The notebook market is large and is growing much faster than the desktop segment so it's exactly the right place for Intel to focus."

"The lessons they learn here will help them scale the technology down to fit into other devices like slates and smartphones down the road," Olds said.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags hardwareIntel Developer ForumIntel Developer Forum 2010hardware systemsComponentslaptopsprocessorsintel

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?