Intel’s Ivy Bridge Announcement, 3D Transistors For All…

The CPU battle is once again heating up. Intel’s response to AMD’s earlier announcement of Trinity’s availability is to launch the first of its Ivy Bridge CPU’s. Hot off the production line are a bewildering array of 14 new models.

This new third generation of Core-i Series processors, both the i7 (top end) and i5 (mid-range), receive an updated CPU, the i7’s also include a completely reworked integrated graphics processor. All processors make use of the 3D Transistor technology and all are built on the industry leading 22nm manufacturing process. Putting Intel at least one generation ahead the industry, when it comes to manufacturing processes.

The launch may be a little light on details such as price and actual availability dates, technically called a paper launch, it has however achieved their goal of stealing back the limelight. Intel won’t let AMD have any more than 15 minutes of fame at a time.

Intel’s PC business chief, Kirk Skaugen, told the BBC, “The momentum around the system design is pretty astonishing. There are more than 300 mobile products in development and more than 270 different desktops, many of which are all-in-one designs. This is the world’s first 22 nanometer product and we’ll be delivering about 20% more processor performance using 20% less average power.”

The new processors continue the trend of jamming as many components as possible into a single chip. Like AMD’s APU’s all of Intel’s new silicon chippery integrate the graphics processor and I/O chip into the same silicon as the CPU. An effective way to cut the overall cost and power use of systems.

Under the hood Ivy Bridge chips feature 256KB of L2 cache per core, up to 8MB of L3 cache. A dual-channel DDR3 memory controller with support for DDR3-2800 and DDR3L 1.35V memory. The top 5 new models incorporate the new HD Graphics 4000 graphics processor while the remaining processors integrate the HD 2500 GPU.

Ivy Bridge’s real internal improvements center around the HD 4000 graphics core. Sick of the trash talk regarding its anaemic graphics power Intel has put a lot of effort into the new GPU. All up the new GPU should be 60% faster than the previous gen.

Transistors in 3D

The new HD Graphics 4000 has been given more horsepower by increasing the number of Execution Units to 16 from 12, and upping the clock speed to 650MHz base and 1150MHz boost clock. New dedicated cache memory should also help to improve performance. Functionality has also been improved, Direct 11 compatibility has been added along with improved video codec support and triple monitor support. All of which should drag the 4000 into the modern graphics world.

The new Ivy Bridge CPU’s are backwards compatible with current (Sandy Bridge) motherboards, although a BIOS update may be required depending on the age of your motherboard.

The CPU cores themselves are slightly tweaked Sandy Bridge cores. Intel tends to only do minor internal changes when they are switching to a new manufacturing process. Sensibly they only do one major change at a time, either manufacturing process or chip architecture, never both. Expect the next CPU to be a major rework, once they have the 22nm process properly sorted. CPU speed improvements for the new Ivy Bridge have therefore been limited to between 5 and 10%.

While these initial Ivy Bridge chips won’t break any performance records they are a sign of things to come. Intel obviously has its 22nm process working well, an impressive feat in itself.

3D Transistors

Intel’s new silicon represents far more than a slight improvement over the previous generation. The technology embedded into every one of the 1.4 billion transistors is ground breaking. 3D transistors or FinFET’s are helping to keep the laws of physics at bay for one more generation. Expect the product announcements to begin rolling out immediately, with over 300 product announcements expected in the next few weeks Ivy Bridge is already a hit with computer manufacturers.

CPU World have the exclusive scoop on pricing, the lower-end Core i5 models start at $184, rising to $332 for the Core i7-3770K which has an unlocked multiplier for easier overclocking. The only model to see a price rise over the comparable Sandy Bridge processor is the Core i5-3570K, up to $225 from $216. Availability is speculated to begin during the end of April.

The march of technology continues relentlessly, Intel and AMD locked in step. AMD’s Trinity looks to still have the graphics advantage while Intel has the CPU speed advantage. Regardless of which side of the fence you prefer the next few months will be exciting times for silicon enthusiasts.

Related Article: Intel’s 3D Transistor
Related Article: AMD Trinity Update