Intel will today officially unveil its second-generation Core processor family based on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture.
The new chips offer a boost in energy efficient performance, according to Intel, with on-chip graphics, and new Advanced Vector Extension (AVX) instructions to accelerate multimedia handling, offering a two times gain in performance over current chips.
The Sandy Bridge chips are to be officially announced at CES in Las Vegas, and make up a slew of new Core i7, i5 and i3 processors, with the quad-core Core i7 models due to ship first, Intel said. Various vendors are expected to showcase upcoming systems based on the new chips at the show.
At the top-end of the range is the mobile i7-2920XM, a quad-core Extreme Edition processor with a base frequency of 2.5GHz, but which can rise to 3.5GHz when necessary using Intel's updated Turbo Boost technology.
The rest of the line-up consists of 12 new standard Core i7 chips, 12 Core i5 and four Core i3 models, covering desktop and laptop systems in dual-core and quad-core versions.
Sandy Bridge is a completely new processor architecture manufactured on Intel's 32nm fabrication technology, thus forming the latest 'tock' in Intel's 'tick-tock' development model. The next 'tick' will be a shrink to 22nm, with future chips codenamed Ivy Bridge.
The new architecture has been designed to deliver significant advances in visual and 3D graphics capabilities, Intel said, with redesigned on-chip graphics circuitry that shares the same L3 cache as the processor cores.
"There are lots of features geared towards content creation, accelerating tasks such as transcoding video to upload to YouTube, as well as just recording and playback," said David Hollway, Intel's UK product manager for Sandy Bridge.
These include AVX instructions, which process floating-point calculations in 256-bit chunks to accelerate image, video and audio processing.
However, AVX is not supported in current versions of Windows, and users will require the yet to be released Windows 7 Service Pack 1 to make use of this feature, Intel said.
Sandy Bridge also has Intel Quick Sync Video hardware acceleration features for transcoding video between formats, offering a doubling of performance when authoring video files, according to Intel.
Intel's Turbo Boost has also been given an overhaul on the Core i7 and i5 chips, enabling greater flexibility in when it can kick in and rack up the clock speed to boost performance.
"The current technology offers either turbo or lots of multi-threaded performance, but Turbo Boost 2.0 now gives the best of both worlds," said Hollway.
Part of this involves taking advantage of thermal latency, allowing the cores to up the clock speed to a level that takes them beyond their terminal design limits for a brief period.
The result is that "the user sees their system is much snappier for short-term spikes in workload", explained Hollway.
Sandy Bridge chips also feature up to 8MB of on-chip cache, an on-chip memory controller supporting dual channels for DDR3 memory up to 1600MHz.
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