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Intel Developer Forum, Day One

Sandy Bridge

New microarchitectures from Intel are always greeted with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, ever since Netburst arrived on the scene. While the Pentium 4 generation was arguably a successful one from a revenue standpoint, it proved to be something of a heat-prone dead end. Conroe redeemed Intel’s reputation, and the next generation, Nehalem, enhanced the company’s reputation even more. Will the third new redesign since Netburst continue to improve?

When it comes to the overall product mix, Sandy Bridge, or as Intel is calling it, “Second Generation Core Architecture,” will eventually consolidate the mainstream and mobile product lines into one process generation. The current mainstream desktop lineup consists of Lynnfield (45 nm quad-core) and Clarkdale (32 nm dual-core.) Mobile CPUs are similarly bifurcated as Clarksfield (45 nm quad-core) and Arrandale (32 nm dual-core.)

Sandy Bridge will be available in both dual- core and quad-core versions for both desktop and mobile PCs. Intel’s next-generation HD graphics will be fully integrated onto the CPU die--not just the package, as was the case with Arrandale/Clarkdale.

As with Nehalem and Westmere, Sandy Bridge has a split L1 cache with separate data and instruction caches, and a dedicated 256 KB L2 cache per core.

The Processor

Built on Intel’s existing 32 nm process, the microarchitecture includes a variety of key enhancements to the current Westmere/Nehalem architecture:

  • A new cache was added for decoded micro-ops (uOps). When loading decoded uOps from this cache, the x86 decode pipeline is turned off, saving power. Improvements were made to the branch prediction engine, improving overall throughput.

  • The architecture now supports two load/store ports, instead of just one. The data cache can handle two reads and one store per clock cycle.
  • The out-of-order execution engine was rebuilt from scratch, which was needed because Intel wanted to integrate support for 256-bit AVX floating point instructions into the pipeline. The AVX pipeline now includes a physical register file, decreasing data duplication and transfers. Intel estimates that use of the new instructions will increase floating point throughput 2x over the current SSE implementation. Note that Windows users will need Windows 7 SP1 (currently in beta) in order for apps to make use of AVX.

The overall CPU is highly modular, allowing Intel to easily build chips with differing numbers of cores, cache sizes, and even GPU execution units.

  • dragon5677
    hope the day comes soon when sandy bridge is released with a surprisingly low price.
    Reply
  • letsgetsteve
    really not a fan of the pin change in mobo's but I guess I'm interested
    Reply
  • kashifme21
    No point of having such powerful hardware, when 95% of current games can be run on a dual core cpu and an 8800gtx gpu @ max settings.

    Intel, Nvidia and AMD should rather pursue game developers to make use of current hardware instead of throwing newer hardware which most likely will be unused.

    Sandy Bridge aint needed for Web surfing or using Word pad any 8yr old CPU is enough for that. Bring on the games or i am not interested in any more upgrades.
    Reply
  • Tamz_msc
    Overall, Sandy Bridge looks to be a solid mainstream offering. Performance enthusiasts should note that LGA 1366 is not going away, and Westmere-based hexa-core CPUs will continue to be offered. Intel even suggested that future LGA 1366 offerings may become available, but wasn’t prepared to make any definitive announcements.
    Unless they are offered at reasonable prices, I see no point in people investing in LGA 1366.
    Reply
  • jfby
    I don't think it's so much that people will want to invest in LGA 1366 but rather Intel will not support anything else.

    The argument to have only 16 lanes available doesn't seem legit; 'mainstream' gamers aren't going to buy a 1366 system at the moment.

    At least people who have bought a 1366 have a potential for an upgrade 2-3 years from now, though I'm sure the better choice will just be a brand new system, again.
    Reply
  • pjmelect
    Intel graphics even at twice the speed, no thanks. AMD could take a big lead over Intel if they integrate ATI graphics in their CPU's.
    Reply
  • ScrewySqrl
    dragon5677hope the day comes soon when sandy bridge is released with a surprisingly low price.
    Low priced? from Intel? You must be joking
    Reply
  • atdhe
    kashifme21No point of having such powerful hardware, when 95% of current games can be run on a dual core cpu and an 8800gtx gpu @ max settings.Intel, Nvidia and AMD should rather pursue game developers to make use of current hardware instead of throwing newer hardware which most likely will be unused.Sandy Bridge aint needed for Web surfing or using Word pad any 8yr old CPU is enough for that. Bring on the games or i am not interested in any more upgrades.
    You know, a computer can be used for more than just gaming, surfing or Word ;)
    Reply
  • Trueno07
    more info here:

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/3922/intels-sandy-bridge-architecture-exposed
    Reply
  • wolfram23
    Glad to be missing this generation, as I just got an i5 750 earlier this year. Won't need to upgrade until at the earliest Ivy Bridge.

    I don't really like how so much die space gets wasted on their P67 platform. Hopefully they make special CPUS that are a little beefier and no on-die graphics for that chipset... tho it's unlikely.
    Reply