Intel Launches Ivy Bridge, Hypes Low TDP to Counter Poor Graphics
April 23, 2012 12:45 PM
IGP is faster than Sandy Bridge, but well behind AMD; power savings to be key amid higher prices
Today Intel Corp. (
) is reportedly launching (according to reports
) its third-generation of Core i-Series processors, code-named
. The launch comes just over a year and four months after the introduction of
, which was launched at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show.
I. Third-Generation Core i-Series Chips Announced a Bit Earlier Than Expected
brings a new integrated graphics processor (IGP), a 22 nm die-shrink,
new power-saving 3D FinFET transistors
, and long-overdue native USB 3.0 support.
The arrival of
is a bit of a pleasant surprise. While it was reportedly complete and ready in January, low demand from OEMs reportedly pushed the launch date backwards. Rumor had it that the launch would be
pushed all the way to June
, but here we are with 13
chips reportedly ready to ship.
There's been no official press releases from Intel, thus far, and prices/models have not gone live
, Inc. (
. It is not immediately clear when these parts will be available.
A colorized die-shot of Intel's third generation Core i-Series CPU. [Image Source: BBC News]
Intel's PC business chief, Kirk Skaugen, told the
, "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 nanometre product and we'll be delivering about 20% more processor performance using 20% less average power."
Intel reportedly has three factories fully upgraded to the 22 nm process and churning out
chips, with a fourth coming online later this year. States Mr. Skaugen, "This is Intel's fastest ramp ever. There will be 50% more supply than we had early in the product cycle of our last generation, Sandy Bridge, a year ago. And we're still constrained based on the amount of demand we're seeing in the marketplace."
The world's largest chipmaker's
marketing of the chip --
aimed at its much touted "ultrabooks"
-- revolves around the power-saving benefits of the die shrink and new 3D transistor gate design. Lauds Mr. Skaugen, "A lot of people had thought that Moore's law was coming to an end. What Intel has been able to do is instead of just shrinking the transistor in two dimensions, we have been able to create a three-dimensional transistor for the first time. For the user, that means the benefits of better performance and energy use will continue for as far as Intel sees on the road map."
II. More Questions Than Answers
But there are many unanswered questions about
. First, there's the question of its supposed strength -- power consumption. Competitor Advanced Micro Device, Inc. (
unleashed a power-sipping pair of system-on-a-chip designs
. While the AMD chips are built on a more power hungry 32 nm process, they are also expected to feature less-powerful CPU cores. Who comes out on top power-wise is still up in the air -- Intel clearly has the process lead, but AMD's slimmer cores may close that gap, while delivering superior pricing.
And that's not to mention the waiting ranks of ARM chipmakers like Qualcomm, Inc. (
) who are
preparing their chips
, such as the
Snapdragon 4 series
Windows 8 laptops
. Like AMD, they are built on a bigger feature size, but include more lightweight cores. Additionally, ARM chips enjoy certain architectural advantages from a power perspective versus Intel and AMD's x86 chips.
Who comes out on top of the power battle will likely not be decided until October or November, when the ARM designs launch in mass, and Intel/AMD's respective lineups have had time to flesh out and be thoroughly benchmarked.
The other major question is graphics. While the HD 3000 IGP inside
was a step forward for Intel, it was also
nearly twice as slow
as the IGP found in
AMD's Llano chips
. Intel is touting
's HD 4000 IGP as a major advance performance-wise. In some talks it's bragged of
2 or more times increase
in performance -- but other reports indicate a
more conservative 60 percent
(on average) performance bump.
Early reviews [
] are not looking good for Intel on the IGP front, as they show the chip unable to beat AMD's last generation design, and posting 50 percent (less than promised) gains in real world games and 80 percent gains in synthetic benchmarks. While there's a need for more careful analysis (
's thorough review is on the way -- teaser
.), it appears that
may be DirectX 11 compatible, but will need to be paired with a discrete GPU (unlike AMD's design) to have acceptable gaming.
boasting a reportedly much-improved hybrid design incorporating elements of AMD's HD 6000 and HD 7000 series of discrete graphics chips, Intel's hopes of winning the IGP war this round are all but over.
III. Can Intel Sell Customers on Twice-as-Expensive Ultrabook Designs?
Likewise, it's anyone's guess how the IGPs inside high-end laptop-ready ARM chips will stack up to Intel's offerings in Windows 8 benchmarks.
If there's one safe bet, it will be that the new Intel chips will be more-powerful CPU-wise on a per-core basis than its competitors. The compelling question, though is whether that will matter enough to consumers to overlook the chips' relatively high price point.
The initial launch is expected to feature 13 pricier quad-core models, according to
. These chips will fall under the Core i5 and Core i7 monikers. The lineup will only be fleshed out with single-core and dual-core (Core i3, i5) models later this spring.
are expected to be $800 to $1,000 USD. By contrast, AMD is promising
sub-$500 USD ultrathins
. ARM notebooks are expected to debut at a similar price -- or even lower. The price difference reportedly stems largely from the higher unit prices for Intel's chip + chipset solution and the potentially weaker IGP, which necessitates a low-end discrete GPU, in many cases. In other words, don't necessarily expect a $900 USD Intel Ultrabook to be any higher build quality than a $500 AMD ultrathin.
If AMD can beat Intel in graphics-enabled applications such as Adobe Systems Inc.'s (
and various games, the question is what if any good Intel's much more powerful CPU cores are for laptop users. Likely only browsers (think intense multi-tab sessions) and a handful of other apps might perform better on Intel's more powerful CPUs. But the question is whether winning in "some cases" is enough to convince customers to pay nearly twice as much.
Intel is facing fierce competition from AMD, whose
(center). is expected to outperform
graphically, while being featured in laptops that are nearly half the cost of
ultrabooks. [Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]
For that reason it's little wonder that Intel is hyping power consumption so much. Power is a must-win scenario for Intel in the laptop space. Utility in mobile devices is still heavily dictated by battery life. If Intel can beat AMD from a power perspective, it will make a compelling case for its pricier chips.
Intel is already looking ahead to its architectural makeover
in the 2013
, promising even more power advances. States Mr. Skaugen, "We are targeting 20 times better battery life on standby - always on, always connected. So you can get all your files and emails downloaded onto your PC while it's in your bag, and still get more than 10 days of standby and all-day battery life."
The veteran will need to deliver big on those promises in the face of intense competition, or it could face extinction in the mobile space it has long dominated.
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