Intel Ivy Bridge details leaked, interesting new specs and support on horizon

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Date: Tuesday, December 6th, 2011, 05:05
Category: News, Processors, Rumor

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If you like Intel’s current Sandy Bridge architecture, then the leaked details of the company’s Ivy Bridge architecture should give you a warm, snuggly feeling inside.

Per X-Bit Labs and Macworld UK, according to information reported by X-bit Labs, a lineup of Core i5 and Core i7 Ivy Bridge processors will be available in Q2 2012. The processors will all be quad core, except one economy Core i5 processor. The rest of the Core i5s reportedly have a 6MB cache and speeds ranging from 2.7GHz to 3.4GHz. The Core i7 lineup has 8MB cache, and clock speeds from 2.5GHz to 3.5GHz.

The Ivy Bridge processors will support PCIe 3.0 x16, and come with native support for Thunderbolt and USB 3.0. It will be up to hardware manufacturers to determine which of those slot and port technologies individual systems will include, though.

The most notable difference between the “Ivy Bridge” and “Sandy Bridge” processors is that Intel is building the next generation CPUs using 22nm architecture–a nearly 30 percent drop in size from the existing 32nm chips. Good things come in small packages, though, so there are some benefits that come with the smaller processors.

First, Ivy Bridge CPUs will consume less power. That translates to lower energy costs, and lower heat output, which snowballs the lower energy costs because less power is then required to cool the system as well.

Second, the smaller central processor makes more room for the integrated graphics chip, allowing Intel to boost the graphics processing capabilities. The Ivy Bridge graphics capabilities are estimated to be up to 60 percent faster, and will support Microsoft DirectX 11.

The bad news is that Ivy Bridge is an incremental bump from the Sandy Bridge processors available today and might not offer a blazing improvement over the current Sandy Bridge architecture.

The good news is that the Ivy Bridge processors will work with existing Sandy Bridge motherboards. So, if you do get a new system now with a Sandy Bridge CPU, you will have an upgrade path available, and won’t be painting yourself into a corner.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple begins manufacturing trial run of A6 processor, looks for 2012 launch date

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Date: Friday, August 12th, 2011, 09:59
Category: iPad, News, Processors

It’s pretty simple: If another person has another rumor story about the iPhone 5 being released in either September or October, they’ll be justly pummeled about the head and shoulders with a frozen badger.

That seems fair.

In other news, Taiwan Economic News, which cited sources close to the story, reported Friday that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. has started trial production of the A6 in cooperation with Apple. Production design is scheduled to be finalized in the first quarter of 2012, while the chip will be publicly unveiled, likely in a third-generation iPad, no earlier than the second quarter of 2012.

If accurate, the report could quash persistent speculation that Apple plans to launch a third-generation iPad later this year, assuming such a device would run the next-generation A6 processor.

The ARM-based A6 is said to incorporate TSMC’s 28-nanometer process and 3D stacking technology. The chipmaker’s “silicon interposer” and “bump on trace” methods are also said to be utilized in the next-generation chip.

Trial manufacturing of the A6 processor was originally claimed by industry sources to have begun in July, when it was also indicated the chips would make their way into devices in 2012. Both reports have pegged TSMC as the manufacturer, lending credence to rumors that Apple is looking to move away from Samsung, which has built its A4 and A5 processors.

Samsung and Apple are currently engaged in a fierce legal battle that recently led sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to be banned in both Europe and Australia. Apple has accused Samsung of copying the look and feel of its popular iPhone and iPad products, while Samsung has responded in kind with its own patent infringement lawsuit.

Friday’s report said sources indicated TSMC has been capable of producing processors for Apple, but the manufacturer was held back by limited production lines. TSMC is also a customer of Nvidia and Qualcomm.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel lists three new processors that could find their way into next-gen MacBook Air

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Date: Tuesday, June 21st, 2011, 05:56
Category: MacBook Air, News, Processors

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With everything that’s being said about Apple’s upcoming next-gen MacBook Air, it’s time to meet the potential processors for the notebook.

Per CNET, Intel has added three new high efficiency Sandy Bridge CPUs to its product catalog, likely representing the chips Apple will use in its next refresh of the light and thin MacBook Air.

The ULV (ultra low voltage) parts consume only 17 watts, making them suitable for the slim design of the Mac Book Air, as opposed to the mainstream Sandy Bridge chips Apple uses in its full size MacBook Pro lineup.

The standard Sandy Bridge chips in Apple’s Pro notebooks dissipate 25 to 35 watts, making them too hot (and too battery taxing) to use in the considerably thinner Air machines.

The new lineup consists of three part numbers:
- Core i7-2677M: dual cores running at 1.8 GHz (peaking to 2.9GHz), 4MB cache, listing for US$317

- Core i7-2637M: dual cores running at 1.7GHz (peaking to 2.8GHz), 4MB cache, listing for US$289

- Core i5-2557M: dual cores running at 1.7GHz (peaking to 2.7GHz), 3MB cache, listing for US$250

Intel sees a big market for notebooks similar to Apple’s MacBook Air, which the chipmaker calls “ultrabooks.” When Apple first released the Air, it was criticized for not being thin enough and giving up too many features while using a full sized keyboard.

Apple has since made the Air lineup thinner and reduced the price while retaining a full size keyboard and moving exclusively to SSD storage, which supports very fast booting, wake and program launching.

The report cited analyst Doug Freedman of Gleacher & Company, who refers to machines like the Mac Book Air as “SSD notebooks,” as commenting that “In the 4-year lifespan of [Apple's] iconic MacBook Air, units sold as a percentage of its total notebook supply was 8 percent in 2008, 9 percent in 2009, and 17 percent in 2010 to an estimated 48 percent in 2011.”

“We expect total notebook SSD penetration at a conservative 5 percent in 2011 growing to 30 percent in 2014,” Freedman stated. He noted that Intel is planning to bundle its own SSD storage devices with its CPUs to sell PC makers packages of components, something the company already does with CPUs and chipsets.

However, Apple introduced SSD options for its latest MacBook Airs using specialized components rather than conventional SSDs built to fill the same space as a conventional notebook hard drive, such as those built by Intel. That has enabled the company to further reduce weight and thickness in the Air designs.

If you have any thoughts on the next-gen MacBook Air, let us know what you think in the comments.

Rumor: Apple testing A5 processor, Thunderbolt port with MacBook Air prototype (updated)

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Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 03:25
Category: MacBook Air, Processors

Ok, this could be interesting.

Per Japanese blog Mac Otakara, sources have have stated that Apple is testing a MacBook Air with an A5 processor, the same CPU powering the iPad 2 as well as a Thunderbolt port. While the machine performed “better than expected” according to their source, the article says it’s unclear whether this test machine was running Mac OS X or iOS.

If Apple has indeed built such a device, it’s unlikely the company intends to put it on the market. While the A5 processor is powerful enough under iOS, in terms of raw performance it pales in comparison to even the least powerful Intel chips, the A5′s Geekbench score standing around 720, while the lowest-rated MacBook Air processor scored over 2000. Benchmarks don’t tell the whole story, of course, but they’re a fairly reliable predictor of the general performance you can expect to get from a machine.

From what we’ve seen of Mac OS X Lion thus far, it already looks as though Apple’s looking at ways of merging OS X and iOS as far as the software’s concerned. If Mac Otakara’s sources are correct, it seems it’s just a matter of time before the hardware follows.

Stay tuned for additional information as we get it.

Intel to ship dual-core Sandy Bridge processor for notebooks on February 20th, MacBook Pro version may not be far behind

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Date: Tuesday, February 8th, 2011, 06:47
Category: Processors, Rumor

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The bad news: Intel’s Sandy Bridge processor was delayed, the announcement coming in last week.

The good news: Intel’s dual-core Sandy Bridge processor, which is widely expected to power the next MacBook Pro line is finally shipping this month.

MacRumors is reporting that Intel will begin shipping its dual-core Sandy Bridge CPU chips for notebooks on February 20th. The processor is specced as using between 17 watts and 35 watts of power while running at speeds between 1.4GHz and 2.7GHz. The Dual-Core chips follow on the heels of a quad-core version launched last month.

“The first Sandy Bridge processors to ship were quad-core chips, mainly for high-end laptops,” PC World writes. “The dual-core chips will likely go into end-user and ultraportable laptops, many of which were shown at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show. Fujitsu said it plans to use dual-core Core i7 chips in its high-end ultraportable laptops.”

The dual-core chips are also likely candidates for upgrades to the existing MacBook Pro lineup, with rumors swirling about updates in the near future, the chips offering a better integrated graphics performance as well as better power usage.

One question that remains is how Intel has addressed complaints of a design flaw in early versions of the Sandy Bridge controller. MacRumors notes “the issue didn’t directly affect the CPUs, but affected SATA-II connectors found on the chipsets,” which manufacturers (including Apple) use to connect the CPU to the rest of the system. Intel previously announced they would begin shipping corrected controllers in mid-February.

Intel’s Sandy Bridge processor line to launch during CES

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Date: Tuesday, November 16th, 2010, 05:00
Category: News, Processors

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Microprocessor giant Intel has confirmed the launch of its Sandy Bridge next-generation processors during its keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show on January 5th, a new report claims.

Per Electronista, Intel PC Client Group general manager Mooly Eden will show off the new processors, which will include the “world’s fastest processor,” at CES. The new processors are expected to replace the Nehalem line of chips currently used in Apple’s Core i5 and i7-equipped iMacs and MacBook Pros.

“Desktop chips will range from dual 2.5 GHz Core i3s to quad 3.4 GHz Core i7s. Regular notebooks will get dual 2.5GHz to 2.7GHz Core i5 and i7 chips in the first batch of processors, and desktop replacements will get quad 2.2GHz through to 2.5GHz Core i7s,” the report noted. Taiwanese industry publication Digitimes reported Monday that low-power Sandy Bridge processors will be coming to Intel’s Huron River platform, which is also due for a Q1 2011 release.

During an earnings call in July, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said he was “more excited by Sandy Bridge” than any product that the company has launched “in a number of years.” “Due to the very strong reception of Sandy Bridge, we have accelerated our 32-nanometer factory ramp and have raised our capex guidance to enable us to meet the anticipated demand,” continued Otellini.

At the time, Intel was expected to release the processors at the end of this year, with Apple then incorporating them into its Mac lineup in early 2011. In 2009, Apple was the first PC maker to release a Nehalem-based system.

In a company memo in October, Otellini admitted that Intel is losing the mobile race to Apple, which has gained a massive head start with the success of the iPhone and iPad, but he reassured employees that Intel was running a “marathon” and would catch up eventually.

Otellini cited Intel’s come from behind to capture 90 percent of the server market as a prior example. “I am also very optimistic about our opportunity in tablets and smartphones, even though we are not first to market with a solution,” Otellini said. “Ultimately, we can and will lead.”

Apple has reportedly been dissatisfied with the drop in battery life that comes with using Intel’s Atom chips. Early rumors suggested that an Apple tablet would sport an Atom chip, but Apple eventually went with a custom System on a Chip that used ARM reference designs.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Nvidia announces seven new GeForce 400M notebook graphics card with accelerated Web browsing features

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Date: Friday, September 3rd, 2010, 14:26
Category: News, Processors

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This could be nifty.

Graphics chip maker Nvidia on Friday announced seven new GeForce 400M series graphics cards for notebooks, which could provide parallel-processing capabilities to accelerate Web browsing and 3D image rendering.

Per Macworld, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome have either implemented or will soon include the capability to offload tasks like rendering of HTML 5 or Flash video content to graphics processors. Nvidia’s new GeForce graphics cards will be faster at processing those tasks than CPUs, which should make Web browsing snappier.

The new graphics cards will be around 40% faster than the earlier 300M series at execution of tasks, said Ken Brown, an Nvidia spokesman.

While the CPU remains at the center of running tasks, developers are writing applications to harness the parallel-processing capabilities of graphics processors to speed up applications, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

“That’s one of the changes with the new browsers, is they support that capability,” McCarron said.

Notebooks with Intel’s latest Core processors already have a graphics processor integrated in one chip next to the CPU. However, discrete GPUs have a faster and wider pipe to run applications, McCarron said.

Still, graphics processors can draw more power than CPUs or integrated graphics, which can affect battery life of notebooks. Nvidia’s graphics cards support new switchable technology called Optimus, where specific tasks like video rendering can be seamlessly switched between the CPU and GPU. The GPU kicks in only when needed, preserving the notebook’s battery life.

Nvidia declined to comment on the exact power drawn by the new graphics cards, citing company policy. In recent years the company has taken charges for faulty dies and weak packaging material used in its graphics chips that led to notebooks overheating. Those issues have been resolved for a while, Brown said.

“Nvidia GPUs are made with a different manufacturing substrate to prevent chips from experiencing thermal issues over time. Our GPUs run in the tolerance level of their specification and the notebook chassis design constraints,” Brown said.

More laptops are shipping with discrete GPUs as users look for stronger multimedia capabilities, McCarron said. Nvidia will be trying to extend its presence in the market with the new products, and it will have to compete with rival Advanced Micro Devices, which already offers Radeon HD notebook graphics cards.

Beyond Web browsing, the graphics cards will provide a better gaming experience and bring Blu-ray 3D movie playback to laptops, Nvidia’s Brown said. The graphics cards will support DirectX 11, Microsoft’s latest graphics technology included in the Windows 7 OS.

The new offerings include the GeForce GT 415M, GT 420M, GT 425M, GT 435M, GT 445M, and the faster GTX 460M and GTX 470M graphics cards. The cards will be available only through the PC makers, and Nvidia did not comment on when the notebooks would become available. The graphics cards will be offered through PC makers including Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba.

Individual pricing for the graphics cards and whether or not the cards would eventually find their way to Apple’s notebook products were not disclosed.

AMD to consolidate graphics chips, retire ATI brand name

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Date: Tuesday, August 31st, 2010, 03:10
Category: News, Processors

AMD, the current exclusive provider of discrete graphics chips in Apple’s latest refresh of the Mac desktop lineup, will phase out the ATI graphics brand name this year.

Per ZDnet, AMD is prepared to make the change because it believes having two brands is unnecessary, and the company plans to offer both CPUs and GPUs combined in its forthcoming Fusion product. Existing products such as the Radeon chip series will maintain their names, but will be labeled as AMD products rather than ATI.

AMD said it conducted research that found its brand is stronger than ATI, and that consumer preference toward ATI triples when they are aware of the ATI-AMD merger. AMD acquired ATI for US$5.4 billion in 2006.

Apple partners with AMD’s rival, Intel, for all of the CPUs in its line of Macs. However, AMD and Apple do have a close relationship when it comes to graphics processing in the Mac lineup.

In July, Apple updated its Mac Pro and iMac desktops, and the new machines only offer ATI graphics. But soon, those same products will be labeled AMD.

AMD, in justifying the change, highlighted its relationship with Apple, noting that the company continues to “secure new design wins with major OEMs — e.g. Apple iMac and Mac Pro.” The company said it has the “momentum and data to make this change with confidence.”

The chipmaker also said that with the AMD Fusion chip set to debut in the fourth quarter of 2010, it is “perfect timing” for the branding change. AMD said its “Ontario” model, which will be its first to offer a CPU and GPU in a combined package, will be a “watershed moment” for the company.

Not the worst thing in the world, even though as a Mac gamer I fondly remember drooling over the coolest ATI graphics cards in yesteryear’s Power Mac G3 and G4 units…

Intel to further combine CPU, GPU components, support Blu-Ray 3D playback in future notebook chips

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Date: Friday, August 27th, 2010, 06:47
Category: News, Processors

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It’s hard to say when this might find its way into an Apple notebook, but it could be amazing when it does.

Processor giant Intel announced that its next-generation laptop chips will have a dozen new features to improve graphics performance and will be able to play Blu-ray 3D movies, the company said on Thursday.

Laptops with processors based on the Sandy Bridge architecture will play Blu-ray 3D movies while preserving battery life, said Nick Knupffer, an Intel spokesman. Users won’t need to buy a separate graphics processor to specifically view 3D content.

Sandy Bridge chips are due to go into production later this year, Knupffer said. Company officials have said that PCs with the new chips could hit store shelves in the first half of next year.

Per Macworld, the company is expected to shed more light on Sandy Bridge’s graphics performance at the upcoming Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco from September 13th through the 15th.

Intel for the first time will integrate the CPU and graphics processor on a single chip, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. The current generation of chips based on the Westmere architecture have the CPU and graphics core on one piece of silicon, but as separate units.

The higher levels of integration will also help Intel include additional transistors to improve graphics performance, Brookwood said. The Sandy Bridge CPUs and GPUs will be made using the 32-nanometer process, while with current chips, the CPU and GPU are made using the 32-nm process and the 45-nm process, respectively.

Graphics performance typically doubles from one chip generation to the next, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

Intel’s current laptop chips are capable of 1080p video, and improvements in Sandy Bridge chips could bring a noticeable graphics improvement to PCs, McCarron said.

Now it remains to be seen what Apple has to say about Blu-Ray support and how this might be integrated into future generations of Apple laptops…

Apple purchased of chip maker Intrinsity confirmed

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Date: Wednesday, April 28th, 2010, 03:32
Category: News, Processors

Late Tuesday, the New York Times confirmed a rumor that Apple had purchased Intrinsity, a privately owned ARM chip design firm.

Citing “people familiar with the deal,” the report also included an estimated US$121 million purchase price, provided by Tom R. Halfill, an analyst with Microprocessor Report.

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling indirectly confirmed the purchase, stating that the the hardware maker “buys smaller technology companies from time to time.” However, he added that Apple does not reveal “purpose or plans” with any acquisition.

Sources close to the story also confirmed to the Times that Intrinsity helped to design the custom A4 processor found in the recently released iPad. Weeks ago, one analyst suggested that only Intrinsity could have delivered the A4 processor with its snappy 1GHz clock speed. The Cortex-A8 reference design on which the A4 is based can only be clocked up to 650MHz.

In early April, rumors first surfaced that Apple purchased Intrinsity to help build the A4 chip. Evidence to support the acquisition surfaced when a number of Intrinsity employees changed their company status on LinkedIn to Apple on the first of the month.

The purchase follows similar acquisitions and in 2008, Apple also bought fabless chip designer P.A. Semi for US$278 million in 2008.

Apple also bought a 3% stake in 2008 in Imagination Technologies, maker of the PowerVR mobile graphics chip found in the company’s mobile devices, including the iPhone. Last year, Apple bumped its share to 9.5%. In addition to partnering with Apple, Imagination also competes with ARM Holdings, which makes the reference designs for chips that power the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.