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December 29, 2011 batteryfast.co.uk CES 2012: What to Expect From CPUs Crossing the Sandy Bridge W hat does the future hold for processors? We expect more speed and less power consumption, lurking behind unassu- ming code names such as Ivy Bridge, Piledriver, and Tegra 3. As the brains of most every modern computing gadget, the central processing unit or CPU is an in- dispensable part of every desktop, laptop, phone, or tablet. The processor crunches the numbers and assigns the tasks, and it’s one of the chief pieces of hardware that determine how thick your laptop is or how long your phone’s battery will last. Every year, these slabs of silicon get smaller, stron- ger, and more energy-efficient. That’s good news for gadget mavens, as devices become faster, lighter, and generally more impressive as a result. Next In the desktop and laptop markets, there are two year will be no exception. In this article, I’ll look at major players: Intel and AMD. Of the two, Intel hashttp://www.batteryfast.co.uk/battery-technology/ces-2012-what-to-expect-from-cpus/ what’s expected from Intel, AMD, and Nvidia. It’s a gained more traction this year, bringing a number bit too soon to tell how things will shake out–expect of powerful, popular components to market–with big announcements from the CES tech trade show the promise of much more to come in the next year. in January–but I’ll try to fill in some of the blanks. Intel operates on what it calls a “tick-tock” cycle. With every “tick,” Intel introduces a new manu- facturing process. In 2010, Intel’s “Clarkdale” des- ktop processors reduced the company’s Nehalem microarchitecture to 32 nanometers, delivering im- proved performance and energy savings. With every “tock,” Intel introduces a new microarchitecture. In 2011, we got Sandy Bridge CPUs, which deliver superior performance to their Clarkdale predeces- sors while cutting power costs and improving the integrated graphics performance. We’ll see the next “tick” in 2012, when Intel shrinks the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture down to the 22-nanometer process. The resulting new CPUs, Love this PDF? Add it to your Reading List! 4 joliprint.com/mag Page 1
December 29, 2011 batteryfast.co.uk CES 2012: What to Expect From CPUs code-named Ivy Bridge, promise even better power that of a Sandy Bridge CPU while consuming less savings and performance, much as the last two pro- power, and it will offer greater performance while cessor generations did. consuming the same amount of power. That means you’ll see laptops that provide better battery life Smaller Is Better without sacrificing speed, as well as faster desktops that are easier on your utility budget. Under the Hood Intel’s Desktop Platform RoadmapIntel has offered no confirmation of what the Ivy Bridge lineup will look like, but leaked reports obtained by Xbit Labs give some information on the new processor line’s naming convention, as well as its CPU frequencies. The new CPUs will purportedly follow the standard naming convention for Intel’s Core processors, fal- ling into the 3000 series (Sandy Bridge was the 2000 series). A refresher: Traditionally Intel divides the Core plat- form into three segments–Core i3 at the low end, Core i5 for the midrange, and Core i7 at the high end. Following that designation is a model number. You may also see a suffix at the end of the model num-http://www.batteryfast.co.uk/battery-technology/ces-2012-what-to-expect-from-cpus/ ber: K for unlocked processors, S for “performance- Most of the information we have about Ivy Bridge optimized” processors, or T for “power-optimized” comes from the Intel Developer’s Forum held earlier processors. The S and T variants are generally for this year, plus the occasional leaked PowerPoint OEM use only–expect to see them in desktops and presentation. Of primary importance is Intel’s die laptops on retail shelves. An unlocked, higher-end shrink, which moves from the 32-nanometer process Ivy Bridge CPU, for example, could be named the to the 22-nanometer process. Switching to a smaller Intel Core i7-3770K. die size allows processor manufacturers to create chips that draw less energy. We also know that Ivy Bridge will be compatible with the LGA 1155 socket–great news for Sandy Bridge Earlier this year Intel unveiled the 3D “tri-gate” owners, who may not need to buy an entirely new transistor technology that it has implemented to motherboard to upgrade. And if you just dropped a make the transition to the 22-nanometer process. few hundred dollars on Intel’s Sandy Bridge Extreme The new transistors are smaller, faster, and more Edition processor, don’t worry: When I met with power-efficient, and will be key to the performance Intel representatives, they told me that Ivy Bridge gains that Intel claims we’ll see with Ivy Bridge. Extreme Edition will use the LGA 2011 socket, so you too have a clear upgrade path. But what does all of that mean for you? Simple: An Ivy Bridge CPU will supply performance similar to Love this PDF? Add it to your Reading List! 4 joliprint.com/mag Page 2
December 29, 2011 batteryfast.co.uk CES 2012: What to Expect From CPUs Other notable enhancements include an upgraded that AMD could muster failed to outdo Intel’s mi- graphics core built into the CPU, allowing DirectX 11 drange offerings. support with Intel’s integrated graphics. We don’t have many concrete details yet, but with every mi- The company will follow up the Bulldozer microar- croarchitecture iteration we’ve seen, Intel’s inte- chitecture with Piledriver, an enhanced variant of grated graphics improve. Ivy Bridge CPUs will also the Bulldozer core. Actual details are slim, and bring native support for USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, code names for individual desktop and laptop lines which we hope will mean greater adoption of those abound, but we do know that AMD will be looking to connectivity technologies across desktops and lap- boost the performance per watt and will be baking tops of all makes and models. in stronger GPU cores. Piledriver is still expected to be a 32-nanometer architecture, which puts AMD We’ve heard no word on when Ivy Bridge CPUs and at something of a disadvantage in light of Intel’s products equipped with them will arrive, but you 22-nanometer Ivy Bridge. can expect to see them sometime around the second quarter of 2012. We’ll certainly know more in Ja- We aren’t expecting to see Piledriver until sometime nuary, once Intel releases a few more details at CES. around the middle of 2012. Bulldozer arrived only a few months ago, after all. Once again, expect more Beyond Bulldozer news from the AMD camp around the CES time frame (CES starts the week of January 8). Now, what about AMD? Bite-Size CPUs The budget- minded pro- I’d be remiss to discuss processors without touching cessor manu- on the mobile market. Tablets and smartphones arehttp://www.batteryfast.co.uk/battery-technology/ces-2012-what-to-expect-from-cpus/ facturer is the gadgets du jour, and although consumers might focused on its be a bit more concerned about aesthetics and apps Fusion APUs than about their portable bauble’s innards, quite a (Accelerated bit of power is at play inside. Processing Units), which It seems like only yesterday we were wondering combine CPUs what to do with more than two cores in our cellular and GPUs onto phones. In 2012, quad-core processors will rule the a single piece day, with chip manufacturers such as Nvidia and of silicon. Qualcomm leading the charge. AMD has its work cut out Nvidia Tegra 2Nvidia’s Tegra 3 is one of the first for it over the next year, however. quad-core mobile CPUs to come to market, and the latest in Nvidia’s Tegra system-on-a-chip line. The In October, AMD pulled the curtain back on its long- system consists of an ARM Cortex A9 CPU with an awaited Bulldozer architecture. Unfortunately, Bull- integrated 12-core GeForce GPU to power the gra- dozer had a rather disappointing launch, and my phics. Expect a deluge of Android tablets to use these own testing showed that the best chip technology chips, as device manufacturers pile on the features in a never-ending arms race. Love this PDF? Add it to your Reading List! 4 joliprint.com/mag Page 3
December 29, 2011 batteryfast.co.uk CES 2012: What to Expect From CPUs Qualcomm will be introducing quad-core Snapdra- gon S4 chips in time for the 2012 holiday season. These chips will support tablets running Windows 8. The S4 will be built on the 28-nanometer process, down from the 45-nanometer process that Qual- comm used on the current-generation S3 chips. Ex- pect improved performance and reduced power consumption. Related Articles: Did you enjoy this post? Why not leave a comment below and continue the conversation, or subscribe to my feed and get articles like this delivered auto- matically to your feed reader.http://www.batteryfast.co.uk/battery-technology/ces-2012-what-to-expect-from-cpus/ Love this PDF? Add it to your Reading List! 4 joliprint.com/mag Page 4