Intel is gearing up to launch its Ivy Bridge family of 22nm processors, a new class of energy-efficient chips crucial to its push to popularise ultrabooks and get a foothold in mobile devices.
Intel's Ivy Bridge chips come with tri-gate design and promise better graphics along with integrated PCI 3.0 and USB 3.0 support. Image credit: Intel
On Monday, the chipmaker gave details of 14 Ivy Bridge-based processors, named the '3rd generation of Intel Core Processors', which will go on sale on 29 April. This initial wave of processors is aimed at desktops; further chips for ultrabooks and mobile devices are expected in the second half of the year.
"Our engineers have exceeded our expectations by doubling the performance of media and graphics versus the best processors we've built until today, which means incredible new virtual experiences are here for new all-in-one PCs and upcoming ultrabook devices," Kirk Skaugen, general manager of Intel's PC Client Group, said in a statement.
The Ivy Bridge chips are built on a 22nm tri-gate silicon process. Intel's 3D transistors operate at a lower voltage with less energy leakage, which increases their efficiency, according to the company.
While the processors use broadly the same chip architecture as their 32nm Sandy Bridge predecessors, this has been shrunk to fit to a 22nm process — an approach known in the industry as a 'shrink-in'. However, more space on the die has been given over to the chips' integrated graphical components. This means the chips support Intel HD Graphics 4000, which works with the OpenGL 3.1, OpenCL 1.1 and Direct X11 APIs for visual performance.
"The graphics side of the processor has been significantly overhauled and improved," Scott Pendrey, a desktop product manager at Intel, told ZDNet UK. "They are very much equivalent to entry level and pushing up into mid-level discrete [graphics cards]."
The graphics side of the processor has been significantly overhauled and improved.– Scott Pendrey, Intel
Besides integrated graphics, the chipset has integrated USB 3.0 support and partial support for Thunderbolt — though an additional in-development Cactus Ridge chipset will be required to unlock all of the features in that I/O technology, Pendrey said.
Ivy Bridge chips operate at a higher level of efficiency than their Sandy Bridge predecessors, according to Intel. However, "the story isn't necessarily about saving power", Pendrey said. "The net result of shrinkage is more performance, rather than [lower thermal design power]."
The thermal design power (TDP) for the processors is roughly similar to that of their predecessors, in that it varies from 65W to 130W.
Intel sees Ivy Bridge as a crucial element of its ultrabook campaign — a push by the chip giant to create a new class of lightweight laptops that compete with Apple's MacBooks. It hopes the energy-efficient processors will allow hardware makers to create mobile devices with extensive battery lives.
"The long-term vision is that ultrabooks will become the normal creation device" for putting together content such as movies, documents and presentations, Pendrey said. However, he acknowledged that "for consumption devices, people are moving into a more tablet [-style] form factor".
Pendrey said more details on Ivy Bridge processors for ultrabooks will be revealed at the Intel Developer Forum Beijing on 6 June.
Get the latest technology news and analysis, blogs and reviews delivered directly to your inbox with ZDNet UK's newsletters.