The times, they are changing. In fact, the times have already changed, we're just waiting for the results. I remember the first time Intel brought me into a hotel room to show me their answer to AMD's Athlon 64 FX—the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition. Back then the desktop race was hotly contested. Pushing the absolute limits of what could be done without a concern for power consumption was the name of the game. In the mid-2000s, the notebook started to take over. Just like the famous day when Apple announced that it was no longer a manufacturer of personal computers but a manufacturer of mobile devices, Intel came to a similar realization years prior when these slides were first shown at an IDF in 2005:


IDF 2005


IDF 2005

Intel is preparing for another major transition, similar to the one it brought to light seven years ago. The move will once again be motivated by mobility, and the transition will be away from the giant CPUs that currently power high-end desktops and notebooks to lower power, more integrated SoCs that find their way into tablets and smartphones. Intel won't leave the high-end market behind, but the trend towards mobility didn't stop with notebooks.

The fact of the matter is that everything Charlie has said on the big H is correct. Haswell will be a significant step forward in graphics performance over Ivy Bridge, and will likely mark Intel's biggest generational leap in GPU technology of all time. Internally Haswell is viewed as the solution to the ARM problem. Build a chip that can deliver extremely low idle power, to the point where you can't tell the difference between an ARM tablet running in standby and one with a Haswell inside. At the same time, give it the performance we've come to expect from Intel. Haswell is the future, and this is the bridge to take us there.

In our Ivy Bridge preview I applauded Intel for executing so well over the past few years. By limiting major architectural shifts to known process technologies, and keeping design simple when transitioning to a new manufacturing process, Intel took what once was a five year design cycle for microprocessor architectures and condensed it into two. Sure the nature of the changes every 2 years was simpler than what we used to see every 5, but like most things in life—smaller but frequent progress often works better than putting big changes off for a long time.

It's Intel's tick-tock philosophy that kept it from having a Bulldozer, and the lack of such structure that left AMD in the situation it is today (on the CPU side at least). Ironically what we saw happen between AMD and Intel over the past ten years is really just a matter of the same mistake being made by both companies, just at different times. Intel's complacency and lack of an aggressive execution model led to AMD's ability to outshine it in the late K7/K8 days. AMD's similar lack of an execution model and executive complacency allowed the tides to turn once more.

Ivy Bridge is a tick+, as we've already established. Intel took a design risk and went for greater performance all while transitioning to the most significant process technology it has ever seen. The end result is a reasonable increase in CPU performance (for a tick), a big step in GPU performance, and a decrease in power consumption.

Today is the day that Ivy Bridge gets official. Its name truly embodies its purpose. While Sandy Bridge was a bridge to a new architecture, Ivy connects a different set of things. It's a bridge to 22nm, warming the seat before Haswell arrives. It's a bridge to a new world of notebooks that are significantly thinner and more power efficient than what we have today. It's a means to the next chapter in the evolution of the PC.

Let's get to it.

Additional Reading

Intel's Ivy Bridge Architecture Exposed
Mobile Ivy Bridge Review
Undervolting & Overclocking on Ivy Bridge

Intel's Ivy Bridge: An HTPC Perspective

The Lineup: Quad-Core Only for Now
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  • dagamer34 - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    I see them just killing off the 13" MacBook Pro entirely, and upgrading the SSD base size to 256GB. There's little reason for the Pro to live on anymore when the Air is far superior in everything except for CPU. Reply
  • gorash - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Really... the Air's screen is terrible. Plus Air is basically not user upgradeable. Reply
  • Breach1337 - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Yeah, I view mine as a consumable. And I love it. Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    That would be a shame, even without the optical drive they could differentiate the 13" pro from the Air with the mentioned 35w quad core CPU, or a discreet GPU in all the space they saved from ditching the ODD, and have more space for battery to offset it. Reply
  • jaydee - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    If I'm buying a system for onboard GPU gaming, I'm going AMD. If I'm buying a system for cpu performance with overclocking, I'm buying Sandy Bridge. I'm not sure what the point of this launch is. Reply
  • A5 - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Notebooks/ultrabooks and debugging the new process node. Reply
  • 8steve8 - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    I've seen so many negative comments like this about Ivy Bridge all over the web... so I'll respond to them all here:

    I'd rather have higher energy efficiency and stability (and less noise), which comes with running at stock voltage/clock speeds. I am not alone there... Plus with turbo boost, why bother OCing, when it has the thermal headroom, it boosts the clock...

    If you think that you can find a significantly better sweat spot of performance, power consumption, and reliability/lifespan of the average high-end (K) CPU from intel, then I have to call BS on that. If you agree that intel knows their cpus better than you, but are purposely under-clocking them (the highest clocked models), then I would ask why.

    I may say that given significantly more exotic/larger/louder coolers, maybe you can dissipate more heat than the processors were designed to dissipate, and you have some headroom to raise the voltage, which may yield higher stable frequencies, but keep in mind power is roughly proportional to voltage^2, so energy efficiency goes out the window real fast...

    I'm not saying no one should play around with their CPUs, have fun... but to say ivy bridge is pointless just because you can't over-volt/over-clock it to the same extent as sandy bridge is foolish when it's clearly a significant step forward, and the best solution for the vast majority x86 PCs.

    For those of us who want an energy efficient, high performance computer, some variant of ivy bridge will be the best option, probably until haswell/2013.

    Thanks intel, and thanks Anand for the review.
    Reply
  • jaydee - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    But it's really not that much more efficient. In fact at idle, the difference is negligible by all benchmarks I've seen, which for most users is the most important area. At full power, a difference of 25 watts is practically nothing given how much time most cpu's are spent at that load. It really shouldn't affect power supply sizing either. I'm just talking about desktop usage here, we don't really have a good look at the notebook chips yet.

    I'm not sure what Intel thinks it's pulling by calling this "tick+" instead of a regular "tick". I don't see anything here that's really that appealing. If helps Intel "debug the process node for 22nm", that's great for Intel, but it doesn't sway me as a consumer to buy one.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Idle power quickly hits a limit based on everything else in the system. It's hardly surprising that the highly efficient Sandy Bridge does just as well at idle as Ivy Bridge. Power gating allows Intel to basically shut down everything that's not being used, and the result is that low loads have pretty much hit their limits. What's impressive is the big drop in power use under heavier loads.

    As for the "tick+", it's all in the GPU. They went from DX10 12EU in SNB to DX11 and 16EU in IVB. As a percentage of total die size, the GPU in IVB is much larger than the one in SNB. But as Anand notes, we still would have liked more (e.g. a 24 EU GT3 would have been awesome for IGP performance).
    Reply
  • owan - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Marginal improvement over Sandy Bridge that can be compensated for by SB's significantly better overclocking ability. Why so much praise for the IGP when 95% of desktop users don't care AND its still vastly inferior to Llano? With so much focus on mobile I'm not even sure why they bothered releasing a high-end desktop SKU Reply

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