Many of the details of Intel's next generation of CPUs may have long since been leaked but today at the Intel Developer Forum, the company reaffirmed it's on track to deliver the chips in large volumes during the first half of 2011. Moreover, some of the demos we saw suggest its going to be a very powerful beasty.
In his opening keynote Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel, spent a lot of time talking about the changing face of Intel as it moves from just a chip manufacturer to a systems and services provider - smart devices like Google's upcoming GoogleTV and the many mobile devices we now use are the real potential growth areas of the business. However, when it comes to actual products the real news was about old school desktop and laptop chips.
Sandy bridge is the company's first architecture to incorporate a CPU and GPU on the same silicon - current Core chips have a GPU on the same package but they use two different pieces of silicon. Intel claims this has major advantages for performance, particularly with regards the graphics. The company demonstrated this by firing up Starcraft 2 on two laptops - one with a dedicated discrete graphics card and the other running Core i7 2nd gen - and showing that they ran at approximately the same speed and the same graphical detail. We weren't told exactly what hardware was being used and what the performance figures were but it certainly looked impressive.
Similarly new embedded video encoding optimisations allow video transcoding to be performed in seconds rather than minutes. This was also demonstrated to us, by comparing a current generation Core i7 laptop against a 2nd gen Core i7 model. The older model took around 3minutes to complete the task, the Sandy Bridge model took about 30 seconds.
The final big addition is that of an improved Turbo mode, the company's auto-overclocking feature. On current generation chips, only some of the cores can be overclocked to a high level at any one time and the GPU doesn't have any sort of Turbo mode at all. On Sandy Bridge, however, all the cores can be overclocked to their fullest and the GPU can also be overclocked.
All told, it looks like the next generation of Intel based laptops are going to be impressive!
Not that the company is stopping there. It also confirmed the followup to Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge is on track to arrive in the latter part of next year. This will be the 22nm die-shrunk version of Sandy Bridge.