Chip maker Intel has announced the availability of its quad-core third generation Intel Core processors, codenamed Ivy Bridge – the first to be built using Intel’s latest 22-nanometer tri-gate manufacturing process.
Until now, computers, servers and other devices have usedtwo-dimensional transistors, but these transistors will eventuallyreach the physical limits of miniaturisation at atomic levels,preventing the continuation of Moore’s Law.
However, Ivy Bridge transistors have a three-dimensional structure,allowing Intel to increase transistor density and squeeze morecapabilities into a smaller area of the die.
The new processors offer a 10 percent improvement in performance overprevious generation Sandy Bridge chips and marginally increase energyefficiency, thanks to the use of Intel Smart Performancetechnology andTurbo Boost, which dynamically manages performance and power.
However, the most significant enhancement is the addition of Intel HDGraphics 4000, which offers support for Microsoft DirectX 11, OpenGL3.1 and OpenCL 1.1. Intel claims that Ivy Bridge processors have doublethe HD media and 3D graphics performance ofprevious Sandy Bridgemodels, delivering dramatic visual and performance computing gains.
“The graphics core runs slower in Ivy Bridge than in Sandy Bridge, butthe execution units themselves are larger in Ivy Bridge and morecapable, so they’re actually running at a lower frequency but stilldelivering more performance,” said Scott Pendrey, desktop productmanager at Intel.
Security features built in
Ivy Bridge has been described as a “tick-plus” in Intel’s “tick-tock”model. This is because, while the size of the underlying transistorshas been reduced, the graphics architecture has also been reworked.
“If we had just taken HD graphics 3000 from Sandy Bridge and shrunk it,then there would be a power saving. However because we’ve got the extraspace we can increase performance in the same power envelope,”explained Pendrey. “The net result is you get more for your moneyrather than saving energy.”
In benchmarking tests with Intel Quick Sync Video 2.0 technology builtinto the new processors, users were able to convert their videos up totwo times faster than last year’s processors. 3D graphics capabilityalso doubled, while multi-threaded applications such as Cinebenchrecorded a 20 percent improvement.
Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors also include security features such asSecure Key and OS Guard, to safeguard personal data and identity. Whenpaired with the 7-series chipset, code-named “Panther Point,” the newprocessors can make a portion of the screen unreadable to spyware,helping prevent a hacker from obtaining login credentials that couldlead to identity theft.
Panther Point, announced last month, also provides support for IntelThunderbolt and Rapid StorageTechnology 11, as well as integrated USB3.0, offering faster data transfer capabilities.
The chips are available now in a selection of desktop, mobileand all-in-one devices. However, the real target for Ivy Bridgeprocessors is ultrabooks – a new category of thin and light laptops,featuring fast turn-on times, long battery life, and high processingspeeds.
NoLinux for ultrabooks
Pendrey said the first ultrabooks featuring Ivy Bridgeprocessors will come to market on 5 June, with more to followthroughout 2012. He said that Intel’s long term-vision was forultrabooks to become the “normal” content creation device.
“You are going to see a variety of styles; you’re going to seeclamshell ultrabooks, you’re going to see convertibles, you are goingto see tablets – a tablet won’t be an ultrabook specifically but youare going to see tablets coming into the marketplace as we move forwardas well,” he said.
Pendrey added that ultrabooks would go “hand-in-hand” with MicrosoftWindows 8 when it launches laterthis year, but will not support opensource Linux-based operating systems.
“When did you last see a consumer saying, ‘I want to buy aLinux notebook?'” said Pendrey. “Ninety-nine percent of the consumeraudience are Windows users. That’s the marketplace we’ve got to caterfor.”
IDC predicts that 30 million to 40 million ultrabooks will be soldworldwide in 2012. However, analyst Antonio Wang warned that pricingand competition from tablets will continue to temperconsumer interest.