on Monday introduced the third-generation quad-core Intel Core processor family known as Ivy Bridge. The processors are the first to leverage Intel's 22-nanometer 3-D tri-gate transistor technology.
Intel is boasting as much 20 percent microprocessor performance improvements over its last generation, along with new technologies to speed the flow of data to and from the chips. While the new processors aim at laptops and PCs, the chipmaker promised additional versions in the coming months that can power a new wave of systems ranging from Ultrabook devices, to servers and intelligent systems in retail, healthcare and other industries.
We asked Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, his thoughts on the new processor and Intel's process for manufacturing it. He told us Intel's process was new and radical -- and has yielded results.
"Intel has been playing catch-up with the dedicated GPU vendors like Nvidia and ATI for a long time," King said. "It's safe to say that with the graphics performance in Ivy Bridge, they are on a par with low- to medium-grade gaming performance that makes up a good portion of that market."
Hard-core gamers that want top-line performance are likely to stick with a dedicated graphics processor unit, he said, but it seems to be only a matter of time before Intel manages to make competitive high-end graphics performance a part of its platform.
"The 3-D graphics capabilities in third-generation Intel Core processors represent a major step forward for PC gaming," said Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director of Valve Software, a leading online game provider. "Mainstream gamers are going to have a blast playing titles like our upcoming DOTA 2 on Intel HD Graphics 4000."
Understanding Intel's Innovation
Until Intel's innovation, computers, servers and other devices have used only two-dimensional planar transistors. Intel said adding a third dimension to transistors allows it to increase transistor density and put more capabilities into every square millimeter of these new processors.
"Intel came up with a really interesting approach that's going to allow them to deliver the benefits of Moore's Law well into the future," King said. "They basically announced where they were going and there were very few delays or hiccups in getting where they wanted to go. Intel deserves a lot of credit for walking the talk."
Intel engineers also reworked the graphics architecture of the third-generation Intel Core processors in a move to deliver improvements in the overall visual experience. Changing the chips' architecture while at the same time shrinking the size of the underlying transistors is an acceleration of Intel's "tick-tock" model.
Previously, the company adhered to a strict "tick-tock" model in which a new manufacturing process was introduced in 1 year (the "tick"), and the architecture of the chip (the "tock") was altered the next.
Systems based on quad-core third-generation Intel Core processor products will be available beginning this month from leading system makers. Boxed versions of these processors will also be available this month from online, retail and channel resellers.
Additional versions of the third generation Intel Core processor products for servers, intelligent systems in retail, healthcare and other industries, Ultrabook devices and laptops and more will be available later this year.