updated 01:55 pm EST, Tue December 6, 2011
Intel Ivy Bridge to focus on efficiency over clock
Following a desktop slip, details of Intel's notebook versions of its Ivy Bridge processor lineup have leaked as well. The lineup seen by VR-Zone will simplify into just U-series ultra-low voltage chips that use 17W and full-power M-series chips that use 35W, 45W, or 55W depending on the model. All 25W chips have disappeared now that PC builders can dial down the peak power themselves.
Clock speed increases will be modest over the current-generation Sandy Bridge processors, with at most 100MHz to 200MHz over the earlier designs. U-series chips should include a 1.8GHz Core i5 and a 2GHz Core i7. Video and their overclock ceilings Intel's 30 percent faster HD 4000 graphics inside and respective Turbo Boost speeds of 2.8GHz and 3.2GHz.
Full chips in the initial wave will start with a 2.6GHz Core i5 (boosting up to 3.3GHz) and will peak at 2.7GHz for regular quad Core i7s (3.7GHz boosted). An Extreme Edition quad Core i7 chip for large gaming notebooks will come in at 2.9GHz with a 3.8GHz boost. All of them should similarly carry the HD 4000 video, although the dual-core chips now have support for faster 1.6GHz DDR3 memory.
Four new companion system chipsets, the HM75, HM76, HM77, and UM77, will accompany the processors. With the exception of the HM75, they should all support USB 3.0 for the first time without needing a third-party chipset. The HM77 will support RAID striping and mirroring in hardware, and the UM77 is intended for ultraportables that cuts back on the number of SATA ports, PCI Express lanes, and port connections to reduce the size and cost.
As with the desktop line, no mention has been made of Core i3, Pentium, or Celeron chips, although dual-core 1.3GHz and single-core 1.4GHz Celerons should arrive early into the year.
The new mobile chips may be the last to come for the whole year. Intel's roadmap has them tentatively slated for May, much later than the January rollout of Sandy Bridge this year. It may help explain Apple's decision to go for a rare second MacBook Pro update this year as it risked going 15 months or more without a speed improvement.
All of the updates will likely dictate the next major refresh cycle for notebook manufacturers. For companies like Apple, it will also dictate the earliest opportunity for a MacBook Air refresh, since it was the first to use the current low-power Core i5 and i7 chips and will be keen to stay ahead now that competitors such as Acer, ASUS, and Lenovo are using similar processors for their Windows-based ultrabooks.