Ivy Bridge Mobile Lineup Overviewby Kristian Vättö on December 7, 2011 6:55 PM EST
It sure didn't take long. Last week, Intel's roadmaps about desktop Ivy Bridge processors were leaked and we posted our Ivy Bridge Desktop Lineup Overview on Saturday. The initial leak didn't contain any data about the mobile lineup, but the mobile roadmaps have now been leaked and it's time for us to take a look at them and provide some analysis.
|Specifications of Mobile Ivy Bridge CPUs|
|Max SC Turbo (GHz)||3.8||3.7||3.6||3.6||3.5||3.3||3.1||2.8|
|Max DC Turbo (GHz)||3.7||3.6||3.5||3.4||3.3||3.1||2.9||2.6|
|Max QC Turbo (GHz)||3.6||3.5||3.4||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Graphics||HD 4000||HD 4000||HD 4000||HD 4000||HD 4000||HD 4000||HD 4000||HD 4000|
|Graphics Frequency (MHz)||650||650||650||650||650||650||350||350|
|Max Graphics Turbo (MHz)||1300||1250||1250||1250||1200||1200||1150||1150|
|Memory Support||DDR3-1600 and DDR3-1333|
Note: For Turb modes, SC = Single-Core (one thread load); DC = Dual-Core (two thread load); QC = Quad-Core (four or more thread load). If you are using Firefox and can't see the whole table, click here.
The number of SKUs is the same as in the retail Sandy Bridge lineup: three quad-core models and three dual-core. There are several OEM CPUs in SNB lineup as well, and it's likely that some OEM SKUs are missing from the roadmaps. On top of that, there are two Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) models, indicated by the U at the end. When compared to SNB, there are no more 25W Low Voltage (LV) CPUs, only standard and ultra-low voltage. This isn't surprising, given that there hasn't been a mainstream product with an LV SNB CPU.
In a nutshell, mobile Ivy Bridge appears to be just like mobile Sandy Bridge but with slightly higher clocks and better graphics, just like the desktop variant. The TDPs will remain the same: 45/55W for quad-core, 17/35W for dual-core—but it's surprising that there is no mention of the 35W quad-core. It's possible that we will see one later on as the new 22nm process node matures, or the 35W quad will be an OEM-only model because those are missing from the roadmaps. Anyway, the roadmaps have nothing about a 35W quad-core, so right now it's not confirmed, although Intel previously stated that there will be one. As for the clock speeds (including Turbo speeds), they are 100-400MHz faster than in the current SNB lineup, so we won't see a huge increase in the mobile side either.
The graphics will see a much bigger update. Like in Sandy Bridge, all mobile SKUs (though Celeron and Pentium brands aren't included here) will come with the better graphics, HD 4000 in this case. This time Intel has put even more effort into the mobile graphics, and the base frequencies will be on-par (except for ULV models) with the desktop models. Also, the Turbo speeds will actually be higher than what desktop chips offer (1300MHz vs 1150MHz). The ULV chips have a substantially lower base frequency but the Turbo, which is as high as the Turbo of the desktop chips, could make up the difference.
Another important feature in Ivy Bridge graphics is the support for three simultaneous displays. This isn't as big a deal for desktops because discrete GPUs can easily be added, but laptops have limited space and discrete GPUs are mainly found in bigger laptops. In the last few years, however, laptops have taken a lot of market share from desktops and using a laptop as a desktop replacement is becoming increasingly common. The Sandy Bridge IGP supports only two displays, which basically means one external display plus the internal LCD of the laptop. For some users, this has been a limiting factor in running a laptop as a desktop replacement. Especially now that we are entering the Ultrabook era, IGPs need to have proper multi-display support as well. While the IGP won't be the fastest GPU on the planet, it will still be more than capable of running basic tasks. My personal usage is fairly light (mainly web browsing, IMing, email and writing) and an IGP would be sufficient, but I prefer at least two 1080p monitors because I tend to have multiple windows open at the same time side by side. This is where the SNB IGP wouldn't cut it, but IVB IGP will.
We have known the features of desktop chipsets for quite a while (since May, to be exact) but the mobile chipsets have remained as a mystery until today. The basic features are the same: USB 3.0 will be included and we finally get the first mobile chipset with Smart Response Technology (SRT). There will be a total of six chipsets: four consumer and two business models. Let's look at the specifications.
|Specifications of Mobile Intel 7-Series Chipsets|
|USB Ports (USB 3.0)||12 (0)||12 (4)||14 (4)||10 (4)||14 (4)||14 (4)|
|PCIe 2.0 Lanes||8||8||8||4||8||8|
|SATA Ports (6Gb/s)||6 (2)||6 (2)||6 (2)||4 (1)||6 (2)||6 (2)|
|Smart Response Technology||X||X||X||X|
|Active Management Technology||X||X|
|Small Business Advantage||X||X||X||X|
On top of the features listed in the table above, all chipsets support Anti-Theft Technology (ATT), Intel Wireless Display (WiDi), and up to three simultaneous displays. ATT allows your computer to be remotely locked in case it has been lost or stolen, while Intel Wireless Display enables wireless streaming to an external display (e.g. an HDTV) with a third party adapter. Note that WiDi also requires an Intel wireless adapter.
The lineup is pretty straightforward. HM75 is the low-end model and is the only chipset that lacks USB 3.0 support, along with some of the software features like SRT and RAID. HM76 brings USB 3.0 supports but lacks the same software features as HM75.
HM77 is the chipset to look for in the higher-end laptops. It offers two extra USB 2.0 ports compared to HM76, but the more important part is its software support. RAID support in a laptop isn't that big of a deal because few laptops have space for two 2.5" drives, and a single SSD would easily outperform two 2.5" HDs in RAID 0. Smart Response Technology, Intel's own SSD caching system, is what you should be looking at. Z68 was the first chipset that supported SRT, but a mobile version was never released. There have been 3rd party solutions, such as OCZ Synapse, but they haven't received much attraction. Having a 3rd party software playing with low-level file access also has its risks, so I think OEMs will be more comfortable adopting Intel's caching system since it's built into the chipset, and if the laptop already has the necessary chipset there's no additional software cost.
The last entry of the consumer chipsets is UM77. It's a low power chipset and will mainly be aimed at ultrabooks. Its feature list is a bit more crippled but the crucial features, USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s, are still there. The number of PCIe lanes is cut in half but that shouldn't be an issue because there are still 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes coming from the CPU, and we have yet to see an ultrabook with discrete graphics. Moreover, ultrabooks rarely have many PCIe devices and the on-die USB 3.0 support reduces the need for additional devices even more.
There are two chipsets remaining, QM77 and QS77. The Q designation is for business models. Specification wise, they are equal but QS77 comes in a smaller form factor, ideal for business orientated ultrabooks and other small form factor computers. The only advantage these chipsets have over HM77 is Intel Active Management Technology, which allows administrators to remotely monitor, update and repair computers over the network, even if the PC is powered off. (There's a specific circuit for this, hence the computer's regular network card doesn't have to be on). Small Business Advantage (SBA) is another business related feature and it offers for example hardware level anti-virus monitoring, blockage of unwanted USB devices, and data backup. Some of these tasks, such as the back up, can be run even when the actual computer has been turned off. HM77 and UM77 support SBA as well, although it's most useful for businesses.
The only surprise is the TDPs. Ivy Bridge is supposed to be more power efficient but right now, the only CPUs that have seen a cut in TDPs are the standard voltage desktop chips. The lack of 35W quad-core is particularly disappointing. 35W would make quad-core possible in smaller 13-14" laptops, such as the 13" MacBook Pro. I think quite a few people have been waiting for less bulky quad-core laptops as a 13" laptop can still be a good desktop replacement if your usage is only CPU intensive (unless a decent discrete GPU can be fit in 13" chassis along with 35W CPU). Hopefully the 35W QC will be at least an OEM-only model, or come a few months later. Haswell would mean another year or so of waiting. The roadmaps indicate that quad core IVB parts will be released in April 2012, while dual core parts are scheduled for May release.
As a whole, Ivy Bridge will be an average update for laptops. The CPU performance won't increase substantially (maybe around 15% or so) but the graphics will see a healthy boost. The new chipsets will also provide some anticipated features, which should make IVB a worthwhile upgrade if you have a pre Sandy Bridge laptop.