Sandy Bridge is arguably Intel's most important future technology. So, what is it exactly?
Intel has been careful to reveal only snippets about the technology over the last 12 months or so. But enough is out there now to understand how the technology moves Intel forward.
In a nutshell, Sandy Bridge is Intel's next microarchitecture, or redesign, of its processors. A chip revamp is the single biggest undertaking for Intel. And it happens every two years. The current design, Nehalem, was introduced in November of 2008 and it pervades all Core i3, i5, and i7 processors (the latter two finally made it into Apple laptops on Tuesday). Its successor, Sandy Bridge, is scheduled to go into production in the fourth quarter.
Key points While Intel Executive Vice President David Perlmutter said he would "not do a deep dive" on Sandy Bridge in his Intel Developer Forum Beijing keynote this week, he did reveal some key points about the architecture.More efficient: the central processing unit, or CPU, delivers a "significant improvement in instructions per clock," according to Perlmutter, meaning that it is more efficient at executing tasks. Faster on-chip communication: different parts of the chip will talk to each other faster--what Perlmutter called "improved inter-buses." Shared memory: on-chip memory called cache is shared between the CPU and graphics processing unit, or GPU. GPU now part of CPU: Intel combines the CPU and GPU on the same piece of silicon. According to an unofficial photo of the Sandy Bridge chip from Japanese Web site PC Watch, the GPU takes up roughly 25 percent of the processor's real estate. New instructions: Sandy Bridge will be the first chip to support Intel's Advanced Vector Extension (Intel AVX) instructions. AVX accelerates a host of multimedia tasks, including video and audio processing. More intelligent overclocking: and, finally, Perlmutter mentioned improved Turbo Boost--which speeds up (i.e., "overclocks") or slows down… Read more