Intel's Ivy Bridge chips raise the bar for rivals

The 22nm, low-power chips mark a tech milestone with longer battery life and faster boot times

With the arrival of Intel's Ivy Bridge processors, the chip maker has just given its competition a new bar to shoot for.

On Monday, Intel took the wraps off its first third-generation Core processors, which have been known by their code name, Ivy Bridge. The new chips bring Intel into the realm of 22-nanometer processing, a big step down from the 32-nm build process, which rival Advanced Micro Devices is still working with.

That means these are the first 22nm logic chips, marking a technology milestone. On top of that, the chips are faster and more power-efficient than their Core predecessors.

"Ivy Bridge sets the stage where the rest of the industry will need to measure their design and fab process and geometries against Intel's new 22nm design," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "This is in some ways an evolution and a game changer."

"It is big for Intel in that it is the first in the marketplace with 22nm. This means a smaller die for better costs and it fundamentally enables better power characteristics for better performance at less power," he said.

Moorhead added that Ivy Bridge provides what he's dubbed an evolutionary 10% to 20% improvement in general purpose compute performance. However, that also offers revolutionary improvements in terms of recoding video, since the new chips are seeing a "20X speedup," he said.

The Ivy Bridge lineup right out of the gate includes 13 quad-core processors for high-end desktops, laptops and all-in-one designs. In the next few months, Intel will introduce Ivy Bridge chips for ultrabooks, as well as mainstream laptops and desktops.

"It's a pretty big deal," said Jack Gold, an analyst with J. Gold Associates. "The initial ships are targeted at higher-end desktops. But soon Ivy Bridge mobile chips will be available. This is what will power next-gen ultrabooks. The lower power/higher performance could be a game-changer. And it will be difficult for AMD to catch up in the short term."

Gold noted that enterprises will appreciate faster boot times and longer battery life for laptops and ultrabooks.

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said Ivy Bridge is a good evolutionary step for Intel and for the end users.

"Ivy Bridge is also the first processor to use Intel's FinFET three-dimensional transistor design, which pays dividends both in terms of power use and performance," Olds said. "Overall, Ivy Bridge should be close to 30% faster than Intel's Sandy Bridge processor it replaces, while consuming 20% less power."

He said the new chips are built for low power more than high performance. "We'll see faster chips using less power over time, bringing more performance to smaller devices that don't suck down batteries like a three-year-old drinking chocolate milk for the first time," Olds said.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at  @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

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