Intel and Advanced Micro Devices will use this week’s Consumer Electronics Show to unveil long-awaited new processors that offer integrated graphics capabilities.
Intel officials, ahead of the Jan. 5 start of CES, on Jan. 3 unveiled its “Sandy Bridge” chips, the second generation of Core i3, i5 and i7 chips that were first launched at the same show in 2010. Meanwhile, AMD will unveil the first of its Fusion APUs (accelerated processing units), via its “Brazos” platform for such devices as lightweight laptops and netbooks.
Intel officials have been talking about the Sandy Bridge processors for more than a year, making them among the key topics during the Intel Developer Forum in September 2010. The 32-nanometer processors, which will target mainstream desktop PCs and laptops, will offer the graphics technology integrated onto the same silicon as the CPU, which not only will improve such functions as high-definition video, 3D rendering and gaming on the systems, but also improve space and cost savings and enhance the systems’ energy efficiency. Systems makers will be able to build thinner, lighter and more power-efficiency PCs and notebooks, according to Intel.
Among the chips’ features is Intel Insider for HD video streaming, and Quick Sync Video for quickly transferring video computers to mobile devices.
Sandy Bridge processors, which will begin appearing in products this quarter, integrates a wide range of features-from graphics and management to power and computing-that usually occupy their own spaces. Intel officials have said the company is moving away from being simply a chip maker and more toward becoming a solutions provider, and Sandy Bridge is an example of that effort. On board the die is not only the graphics technology, but also such features as the memory controller and PCI-Express communications capabilities.
“Basically, we are very much putting together all that is required on a single piece of silicon,” David “Dadi” Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, said during a speech at IDF in September 2010.
Some information about Sandy Bridge-based systems already has leaked out. For example, reports last month indicated that some of Apple’s upcoming MacBooks will use Sandy Bridge chips in place of Nvidia GPUs (graphics processing units).
For their part, AMD officials are expected to introduce the company’s Brazos platform-with the “Ontario” APU and accompanying chip set-aimed at tablet PCs, netbooks and lightweight notebooks. Brazos is part of AMD’s Fusion initiative to bring graphics and computing onto the same piece of silicon, an effort that began when AMD bought graphics company ATI four years ago.
Among the APUs AMD is rolling out this year is the 9-watt Ontario chip and the 18-watt “Zacate” processor for notebooks and desktop PCs.
Lenovo on Jan. 3 rolled out a number of new ThinkPad notebooks, including one powered by Zacate. According to Lenovo officials, the ultraportable 11.6-inch ThinkPad X120e offers 65 percent faster graphics performance and 30 percent more battery life over earlier models.
AMD officials, who have gotten heat from analysts for being late bringing AMD’s Fusion products to market, have said they are pushing their APUs into systems in the $500 range.
“We’re bringing it in at the heart of the mainstream market,” Bob Grim, AMD’s director of client platform marketing, said in September, while showing off Zacate in a demonstration in a hotel suite nearby the site of Intel’s developer show.