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Intel pledges 'big leap' in integrated graphics performance

Inside 'Arrandale'

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IDF Intel has given further insight into its attempt to build a better reputation as a provider of integrated graphics products, specifically as its takes the IGP out of the chipset and builds it into the CPU.

Hopefully, we may have reached the point when the arrival of a new Intel IGP launch is no longer damned with the faint praise of critics saying it sucks less than the previous one did.

The first CPU+GPU processor will be the dual-core, four-thread 'Arrandale', Intel's first 32nm mobile chip. Arrandale is derived from Intel's 'Westmere' architecture. Arrandale's desktop equivalent is 'Clarksdale', which should become available around about the same time, according to roadmap slides presented by the chip giant today.

When Arrandale ships, it will indeed contain a 32nm processor. But its graphics core will be a 45nm unit that also includes the memory controller. So, unlike other Nehalem derivatives, the memory controller will sit on the IGP die rather than the CPU die.

Intel isn't saying if subsequent Westmere processors will gain 32nm IGP, but it did reveal that the graphics engine and the memory controller will be integrated into the CPU die in the 'Sandy Bridge' generation, which is due next year. Sandy Bridge CPUs with on-board GPUs will be a "monolithic" CPU+GPU design, Stephen Smith, Director of Operations within Intel's Architecture Group, said.

Arrandale's graphics engine will be slightly different from the one found in Clarksdale. It will support a feature called Graphics Turbo, presumably a means by which the core can overclock itself if it can do so without busting the chip's thermal limits.

Sandy Bridge chips will get a souped up version of this technology, called Graphics Turbo+.

Both processors' IGPs will incorporate Clear Video HD, the next generation of Intel's video processing technology. It will support two HD video streams, allowing media player apps to do picture in picture. The IGPs will support DirectX 10 but not DX 11, Smith said.

Intel hasn't given specifics, but Sean Maloney has claimed that the arrival of Arrandale and Clarksdale will see a "big leap" in IGP performance.

Intel's roadmap slides show Arrandale and Clarksdale arriving well ahead of 2010, so it shouldn't be too long before we get to find out how much of a difference bringing the GPU into the CPU package, tweaking it and reducing it from 65nm to 45nm will make.

Quite how far ahead of year's end these two 32nm parts will arrive isn't clear. Intel has said its 32nm chips as a whole will bring it revenue in Q4, implying they will ship to Intel's customers later rather than sooner, with products based on the new chips debuting early next year. ®

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