updated 09:55 pm EDT, Sun April 22, 2012
Intel kicks off 22nm chip line in earnest
Intel on Sunday formally launched its Ivy Bridge processor range. The 22-nanometer chips will, as hinted, start off with 13 quad-core processors in the Core i5 and i7 families, primarily focuses on desktops as well as mid-size and large notebooks. Lower-end Core i3 and i5 chips, as well as ultrabook-friendly low-voltage processors, are coming later in the Spring, Intel said.
The early semiconductor pioneer estimates that, compared to the existing 32nm Sandy Bridge architecture, an Ivy Bridge chip can get roughly 20 percent higher performance for 20 percent less typical power. Along with the greater power and performance efficiency of moving to the smaller 22nm manufacturing process, some of the greatest improvement comes from another graphics improvement in the HD 2500 and HD 4000 series integrated video. The HD 4000 is fast enough to handle 4K resolutions and modern games at modest detail levels.
Ivy Bridge also represents the first Intel architecture to natively support USB 3.0. Until now, support has either required an AMD-based platform or a third-party USB controller chip to get the faster speeds. Apple is widely believed to have held off from USB 3.0 for this reason.
The launch will see processors ship, although most PC builders might not have shipping computers for a few weeks.
Although Intel has promised to accommodate demand for Ivy Bridge, it may see early constraints. Its processor refresh for 2012 comes almost five months later than for Sandy Bridge in 2011 and has seen multiple manufacturers hold off on major PC revisions, including HP, Lenovo, and Samsung, until they could get the faster components. Apple is believed to be waiting on a slew of desktop and notebook updates and issued a rare second yearly round of MacBook Pro updates last fall to make sure the lineup remained relevant for the several months leading up to Ivy Bridge.