A few weeks ago we previewed the performance of Intel’s next-generation microprocessor architecture, codenamed Sandy Bridge. We came away impressed with our early look at performance but honestly had very little explanation for why the chip performed the way it did. For the first time in years we knew the performance of an Intel processor without knowing much about its underlying architecture.

Today, that all changes.

Sandy Bridge is Intel’s 2011 performance mainstream architecture refresh. It won’t take the place of the 6-core Gulftown based Core i7 processors at the top of the charts, but it’ll occupy the competitive space below it. The value segments won’t see Sandy Bridge until 2012.

The first CPUs will ship very early in 2011 for both desktops and notebooks. The architecture discussion we have here today applies to both. The CPUs won’t be called Sandy Bridge but instead will be called Intel’s 2nd generation Core i3/i5/i7 microrpocessors. The naming system will follow this format we outlined in our earlier look at Sandy Bridge:

Sandy Bridge Desktop CPU Comparison
  Base Frequency L3 Cache Cores/Threads Max Single Core Turbo Intel HD Graphics Frequency/Max Turbo Unlocked TDP
Intel Core i7 2600K 3.4GHz 8MB 4 / 8 3.8GHz 850 / 1350MHz Y 95W
Intel Core i7 2600 3.4GHz 8MB 4 / 8 3.8GHz 850 / 1350MHz N 95W
Intel Core i5 2500K 3.3GHz 6MB 4 / 4 3.7GHz 850 / 1100MHz Y 95W
Intel Core i5 2500 3.3GHz 6MB 4 / 4 3.7GHz 850 / 1100MHz N 95W
Intel Core i5 2400 3.1GHz 6MB 4 / 4 3.4GHz 850 / 1100MHz N 95W
Intel Core i3 2120 3.3GHz 3MB 2 / 4 N/A 850 / 1100MHz N 65W
Intel Core i3 2100 3.1GHz 3MB 2 / 4 N/A 850 / 1100MHz N 65W

The CPUs will require a new socket (LGA-1155) and all new motherboards based on Intel’s forthcoming 6-series chipsets.

The new socket

New low-profile 45W Sandy Bridge heatsink (left)

The chipset brings 6Gbps SATA support (2 ports) but no native USB 3, motherboard manufacturers will still have to use an off-chip controller to get USB 3 support. Intel will also enable 5GT/s PCIe 2.0 slots with its 6-series chipsets.

A mini-ITX LGA-1155 Motherboard

The Front End
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  • name99 - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    This is no secret. This is exactly Intel's tick-tock strategy that has been in place for years now.

    The one thing you have to keep in mind is that designing these CPUs now takes of order SEVEN YEARS (!!!) from conception to ship, which means that slips and mistakes do occur. Intel (and I guess AMD) have to make their best guess as to what the market will look like in seven years and sometimes they do guess incorrectly. Of course there is scope for small changes along the way closer to the release date, but not for changes in the grand strategy.
  • medi01 - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    Agreed, it was two things: greed and the fact that AMD is currently not in a position to be a threat.
  • tatertot - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    "The value segments won’t see Sandy Bridge until 2012."

    You later show a roadmap slide which indicates Sandy Bridge in the value segment in Q3 2011.

    Perhaps you meant "H2 '11" instead of "2012" ?
  • J_Tarasovic - Thursday, September 16, 2010 - link

    I think that the roadmap probably refers to OEM shipments, whereas, Anand was probably referring to when consumers would actually be able to buy devices.
  • iwodo - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    I just realize that my computer will no longer scream when i do WebCam Video Conferencing with Skype!. With the Encoder Engine and Decoder Engine, all i am doing it feeding USB 3.0 data and move them around........
  • yuhong - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    "Back in the Core Duo days that was 80-bits of data. When Intel implemented SSE, the burden grew to 128-bits. "
    "Core Duo" Huh?
  • NaN42 - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    No, it seems to be right. Core Duo belongs to the Pentium M microarchitecture which implemented the SSE registers as two 64bit registers. So the largest registers were the x87-registers, but I'm not sure whether upon register renaming the registers were really copied.
  • aka_Warlock - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    New CPU from Intel... and guess what?!! New SOCKET!! Lol.
    Intel do know how to milk the stupid cow.
  • bernpi - Sunday, November 14, 2010 - link

    For most people it makes perfect sense to get a new socket. Most people don't buy every new CPU from Intel or AMD because it would be a waste of money. My current CPU is a Core2Duo Quad processor with a 775 socket, i skipped the nehalem generation and will buy a SandyBridge early next year. So why should i keep my motherboard and the old 775 socket? Of course i will buy a new motherboard for the new processor. So i think for most people this is not a real issue.
  • Sahrin - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    There's a lot of "neato" stuff that does a lot to improve the user experience by making the chip use its design resources more intelligently (smarter turbo - that 'comcast turbo-boost' feature should really make a difference for end users); but in terms of actual throughput it looks like Intel left FP performance the same; and there certainly isn't any new integer hardware.

    K11, on the other hand, doubled integer ALU's (though the raw number of execution units is now the same as in a Nehalem core) and added a half-width (compared to Intel) FP unit.

    First, I'd be interested to see if the whizz-bangies AMD was talking about for the K11 FPU a year ago make the execution time for 128-bit FP instructions comparable, better than, or still slower than Intel's FPU .

    Second, I'd be quadruple interested to see what impact the way AMD is allocating the new integer hardware is going to have on performance. A monolithic Nehalem core is going to be able to handle more complex (wider) threads better than a K11 core (that's a 2-integer and 1-FPU Bulldozer); but in SMT-mode (or pseudo-SMT mode) what happens? We know Intel experiences a performance hit in HTT mode which they are only able to offset because Nehalem is so wide. AMD thinks it isn't going to get the expected hit in the front end, and they won't have the thread-switching penalty that Intel does. My prediction is that 8-core K11/Bullzoder will crush Sandy Bridge in multithreaded FP-light workloads and be 5-20% slower in everything else (the possible exception being 128-bit floats).

    I'm actually kind of disappointed by this update to Nehalem...Intel did a lot of "uncore" stuff and implemenated AVX. Where's our wider back-end? More execution hardware drives better single-thread performance...the rest is just undoing the damage from the CISC-RISC transition in the front end and OoO .

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