SAN FRANCISCO – Intel rolled out today a family of Ivy Bridge CPUs, its first processors using its 22nm tri-gate technology and aimed at ultra thin and light notebooks. Analysts said the chips will narrow archrival AMD’s lead in graphics performance and inject new life into the notebook market under attack from tablets such as the Apple iPad.
AMD is said to be on the cusp of rolling out its next-generation CPUs, called Trinity. The chips are built in a 32nm process. AMD is not expected to field chips using the still scarce 28nm process until 2013.
By that time Intel will be moving on to Haswell, its first new microarchitecture to use its 22nm process. Intel typically gains a 10-20 percent performance advantage with the first chips, such as Ivy Bridge, to use a new process and a bigger performance boost for a new design, such as Haswell, optimized for that process, said Nathan Brookwood, principal of market watcher Insight64 (Saratoga, Calif.).
Ivy Bridge “will be very reminiscent of the state of play between Intel and AMD in recent years,” said Brookwood.
“The x86 cores in Ivy Bridge will likely outperform those of Trinity, but Trinity’s graphics cores will probably outperform those in Ivy Bridge,” he said.
Ivy Bridge marks Intel’s first chips with graphics that support Microsoft’s latest DirectX 11 graphics APIs, an edge AMD used to claim for itself. “Now AMD has to make an argument its implementation of DX11 is superior to Intel’s and that’s a tougher argument to make,” Brookwood said.
Both companies will support BGA packages with their new chips so processors can be soldered on to a motherboard without a socket, enabling the so-called ultrabooks, thin and light notebooks that imitate the Apple MacBook Air.
Intel defined the ultrabook category including a range of systems specifications on their start-up time, thickness, security features and other requirements. The specs drives costs for the systems which currently hover around $1,000 but could fall to $700-$800 later this year. Intel Capital created a $300 million fund to support the ultrabook concept.
By contrast, AMD is not requiring adherence to an ultrabook system spec. Thus its generally lower cost Trinity chips may be used to power cheaper thin and light notebooks that don’t bear the ultrabook name but cost as little as $600, Brookwood estimated.
AMD has typically battled with Intel offering at lower prices chips with roughly similar features and performance. Intel had plenty to saw at the event here about its new graphics design but said chips for ultrabooks are still a few weeks away.
About a third of the 1.4 billion Ivy Bridge transistors are for graphics.