Intel has been relentless in releasing a new generation of microprocessors every twelve months.
This year will be no exception, as the Sandy Bridge group of chips is expected to start being shipped out of the factory by the end of the year, with retail availability by January of 2011 at the latest. The chip has many major innovations over its predecessors. Most important is the full integration of graphics into the same silicon die.
The graphics core shares the same L3 cache as the CPU cores, increasing theoretical performance. This is different from the Westmere solution, which had two separate chips in the same package. Sandy Bridge will also feature Advanced Vector Instructions to help increase the speed of floating point operations. Sandy Bridge will first be offered with either 2 or 4 cores, with hyper threading available in higher-priced parts. While more detailed information on performance will be released at the Intel Developer Forum in September, sample chips have leaked out and been benchmarked already.
The results are spectacular, with 20% performance gains over the previous generation being quite common in many applications. In graphics, performance has doubled over the Westmere integrated solution. With these promising results, the future for PC enthusiasts looks bright.