Today during the IDF keynote speech Intel demoed its "Sandy Bridge" hybrid graphics-microprocessor chip, and confirmed that the standalone chip won't support DirectX 11 graphics.
"Sandy Bridge" is the beginning of what Intel calls its "Processor Graphics" line and is the chip giant's attempt at killing off, or at least profiting from, the entry-level GPU market by incorporating a GPU on the same silicon as the CPU. The platform is a successor to the Nehalem/Westmere architecture and places the CPU and GPU on the same die. The single-die design means that both the CPU and GPU can make use of the on-chip cache.
Also updated is the Turbo Mode. This is a feature already present in Core i7 and i5 CPUs. On "Sandy Bridge" this mode allows the CPU to suck more power than the rated TDP allows as long as the CPU/GPU is cool enough to do so safely.
Does Intel stand a chance? Well, market research company iSuppli believes that by 2014 some 80% of PCs sold will be equipped with hybrid graphics chips.
Paul Otellini, chief executive of Intel, had the following to say:
"Sandy Bridge will revolutionize the PC. This is a very important chip to Intel."
"Sandy Bridge" is a pretty capable GPU - it can display Blu-ray, even in 3D, it supports Intel Wireless Display, will use the embedded DisplayPort standard to connect the GPU to the screen, and is capable of handling the demands of transcoding video.
But there's one thing that it can't do - and that is support DirectX 11. Not a problem right now since DX11 games are pretty thin on the ground, but not supporting the future can come back to bite you, as NVIDIA found out with DirectX 10.1. People get confused by the nuances of things like DirectX, expecting all or nothing support. Half support can be the same as no support.
NVIDIA is unimpressed, saying that "Sandy Bridge" is a "turboprop in an age of jet engines."
Intel certainly has the clout to get "Sandy Bridge" onto hardware, but can it persuade the buying public to go with it?
Intel expects to ship high volumes of "Sandy Bridge" silicon by the first half of 2011.