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What Intel's Sandy Bridge chips offer you

Intel's newest Core processors use less power, offer integrated graphics

January 5, 2011 04:52 PM ET

Computerworld - Intel today formally unveiled its line of Sandy Bridge chips at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, taking the wraps off a family of Core processors that includes dozens of new chips, with more to follow later this year.

The chips will fit into Intel's line of i3, i5 and i7 processors, with quad-core versions available on Jan. 9. Dual-core chips are slated to follow next month.

"This is a pretty big deal," said Mike Feibus, an analyst with TechKnowledge. "It really is a pretty impressive platform. This is exciting, especially for mobile."

So, what do the new chips offer users?

Overview

Intel's Sandy Bridge processors include dual-core, quad-core, six-core and eight-core chips for desktops and laptops.

In the last generation of the iSeries chips, the dual-core and six-core processors had been moved to the 32-nanometer manufacturing process. The old quad-cores, however, remained on the 45nm process.

That's now changed. The new processors are all made with the 32-nanometer process, giving the quad-cores more transistors than their predecessors.

"It's a significant introduction," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "They move everything to 32nm here.... These things use quite a bit less power too compared to their predecessors. Some of the new chips use up to half the power."

Graphics

Another distinguishing feature for the Sandy Bridge chips is that they've been designed from the ground up to have integrated graphics.

The latest Intel processors put a graphics processor, microprocessor and memory controller on a single chip. While extreme power users and gaming enthusiasts often look for a separate -- and more powerful -- graphics chip, Olds said the integrated graphics in Sandy Bridge should work just fine for almost everyone.

The advantage to having integrated graphics is that with one chip instead of two, there's no need to connect graphics to the CPU. Eliminating that hop between the two chips saves on heat and power loss.

The downside is that you don't get the graphics performance you would with separate graphics hardware. Intensive users might get more stuttering video or see some drag in graphics rendering, according to Olds.

Chip details

i3: The Core i3 chips make up the low end of the processor line for the Core i Series. They are all dual-core chips for desktops and laptops and they won't be available until February.

The i3 chips will have a few new features, including an update to Intel's Wireless Display technology, which will allow users to wirelessly watch high-quality digital content delivered from their computers to their TVs.

The i3 chips also will have Intel Insider, an anti-piracy technology that keeps people from copying online movie content.



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