Which CPU? Intel Sandy Bridge vs. AMD Fusion

We explain the ins and outs of Intel's 2nd Generation Core CPUs and AMD’s new Fusion APUs

Over the next few weeks, Intel and AMD are set to unleash two new families of CPUs: Sandy Bridge (Intel's 2nd Generation Core processors) and Fusion, respectively.

These new processing chips offer a range of exciting improvements over existing CPU architecture, including on-board graphics chipsets, increased power efficiency and Full HD video optimisation. If you're curious about the new chips, read on for an inside look at Intel's Sandy Bridge and AMD's Fusion APU (accelerated processing unit).

Intel's Sandy Bridge

Sandy Bridge is Intel's second generation of Core processors, incorporating new Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 models. The new processors will only work in motherboards that have an LGA-1155 CPU socket; they feature the processing chip, graphics adapter and some I/O functions together on the same physical piece of silicon. On the first generation Intel Core CPUs, the graphics were in the same physical package as the CPU, but not on the same silicon. In the 2nd generation Core CPUs, the graphics have been properly integrated with the CPU. For the end user, this translates to faster and more efficient computers — especially in the notebook sector (the high-end Core i7 processors will allow laptops to handle eight-way multitasking, for example).

Sandy Bridge: What's inside?

The new Intel socket for Sandy Bridge is LGA-1155, and you'll find it paired on motherboards that are themselves based on three new chipsets: the performance-focused P67, the integrated graphics-focused H67 and the entry-level H61. In a nutshell, this means you'll need to buy a new motherboard if you're looking to upgrade your CPU to a 2nd Generation Core.

One of the biggest changes introduced by Sandy Bridge is the integration of a graphics processing unit (GPU) directly onto the die of the processor. In other words, if you're a typical PC user and not a dedicated gamer, there's no need to connect a graphics card to the CPU. Eliminating that hop between the two chips saves on heat and power loss.

If Intel is to be believed, the new execution units present in its Sandy Bridge GPU can provide more than 20 times the power of Intel's Generation-5 graphics. It will also be able to compete with entry-level discrete graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD.

"The Sandy Bridge family will include a new 'ring' architecture that allows the built-in processor graphics engine to share resources such as cache, or a memory reservoir, with the processor's core", explains Intel. "[This] increases a device's computing and graphics performance while maintaining energy efficiency."

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