Thursday, May 19, 2011

Intel’s Roadmap: Ivy Bridge, Panther Point, and SSDs


Intel still isn’t taking the wraps off of their Ivy Bridge architecture, but yesterday’s 3D Tri-Gate announcement certainly changes the expectations.

Ivy Bridge

Ivy Bridge will be a die shrink of Sandy Bridge and represents a “tick” in Intel’s product line. That means the micro-architecture is mostly the same as Sandy Bridge, but it will be manufactured using 22nm process instead of 32nm. That will bring lower power consumption and thus less heat while keeping the same performance level. Unfortunately, we don’t have any information on core counts, clock speeds, model numbers, cache sizes, or the IGP. At the same core counts as SNB, we might see some fairly high clock speeds (>4GHz, anyone?) since current quad-core Sandy Bridge CPUs already offer Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz, and adding additional cache to the design is almost a given. Intel is putting additional resources into their IGP as well, so we expect to see some healthy performance and capability improvements.
Sandy Bridge versus Ivy Bridge
Sandy Bridge Ivy Bridge
Manufacturing process 32nm 22nm
Transistor technology 2D (Planar) 3D (Tri-Gate)
PCI-Express (version) 16 lanes (2.0) 16 lanes (3.0)
Turbo Boost version 2.0 2.0
Memory support Up to DDR3-1333 Up to DDR3-1600
Quick Sync 1.0 2.0 (?)
DirectX 10.1 11
IGP shader count Up to 12 EUs Up to 16 EUs (?)
OpenGL 3.0 3.1 (?)
OpenCL N/A 1.1 (?)

The table above summarizes most of the currently known differences. Ivy Bridge will have enhanced AVX support, the on-die PCI-Express graphics links become version 3.0 instead of SNB’s 2.0, and official memory speed support from the IMC gets bumped to DDR3-1600. While we won’t know about the power consumption until we actually get to test an IB CPU, the roadmap lists TDPs that are the same as SNB (95W, 65W, 45W, 35W). The shrink to 22nm and 3D transistors (FinFET) almost represents a two-node process technology jump, so we expect performance at various power levels to increase quite a bit. A final interesting point for many users is that Ivy Bridge is pin compatible with Sandy Bridge, and it will work on current LGA1155 motherboards with the appropriate chipset and a firmware and BIOS update (H61, H67, P67, and Z68 are capable of support IB). Intel will also launch new 7-series chipsets, which we’ll get into below.

Wrapping up the discussion of improvements, let’s focus on the IGP a bit more. As with Sandy Bridge, we expect Intel will have several IGP variants with Ivy Bridge’s graphics. We don’t know what they will be, but we do know that Intel is calling it their “next Gen Intel HD Graphics” and the core GPU will be DX11 capable. It also looks like Intel will add OpenCL 1.1 support and increase the maximum number of EUs from 12 to 16, though either of those elements may change. Intel lists “Next Gen Quick Sync” as another feature, and with the increase in EU count and additional functionality Ivy Bridge might be double the speed of SNB when it comes to transcoding video.

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