Intel has officially launched its first 22nm processor chips, codenamed Ivy Bridge, bringing improved performance and power efficiency over the previous generation, with overhauled graphics and numerous updates including USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt-ready support chipsets.
The first Ivy Bridge chips are set to ship on 29 April, with quad-core versions available first, while dual-core versions for desktop and mobile will follow and there will also be low-cost Pentium brand Ivy Bridge chips, Intel said.
As the third generation of Intel's Core processor brand, the chips will fit into the existing Core i5 and i7 categories, offering performance equal or better to existing chips, but with lower power consumption.
In particular, the updated processor graphics functions offer up to double the media and graphics performance, while the chips have integrated PCI Express 3.0 and the companion chipset finally provides USB 3.0 at the motherboard level.
Ivy Bridge is a die-shrink of the current Sandy Bridge processor architecture launched last year, which should make it a "tick" under Intel's "tick-tock" development model, but it actually introduces some new features such as enhanced graphics, in the shape of Intel HD Graphics 4000.
"Ivy Bridge is something of a ‘tick plus'. The processor design itself is based on Sandy Bridge, but the shrink has freed up space to put more stuff in, so the graphics side has been significantly overhauled to take advantage," said Scott Pendrey, desktop product manager for Intel UK.
However, despite improvements, the Intel graphics do not go as far as integrating the full capabilities of a discrete GPU onto the chip, unlike AMD's Fusion processors.
The initial line-up consists of 5 Core i5 desktop chips, 4 desktop Core i7 parts, 4 Core i7 mobile chips and a single mobile Core i7 Extreme.
The Core i7 and the desktop Core i5 parts are all quad-core, while the mobile Core i5 parts are dual-core.
Top mobile chip is the Core i7-3920XM with a base clock speed of 2.9GHz and priced at $1,096, while the top desktop component is the Core i7-3770K with a base frequency of 3.5GHz and priced at $313.
Earlier this month, Intel introduced its 7 Series chipsets designed to support both Ivy Bridge and the existing Sandy Bridge architecture chips.
These provide the USB 3.0 ports, and also features that enable support for the high-performance Thunderbolt I/O technology, which can be implemented with the addition of Intel's Cactus Ridge controller chip.
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