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Intel lets loose with 3rd gen Ivy Bridge tri-gate chips

Claims massive OEM push for Core i5 and i7 systems

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Intel has released its first chips using tri-gate memory technology with the Core i5 and i7 series, dubbed Ivy Bridge, which it claims puts it years ahead of "the competition" – the chip giant's traditional name for AMD.

The quad-core processors are Chipzilla's first 22nm range, and Intel claims the combination of reduced die size, the electrostatic improvements of tri-gate silicon builds and a reengineered graphics core that doubles performance, gives it 20 per cent better performance at 20 per cent less power.

It's promised 570 new designs using the new processors by the end of the year, and a 50 per cent ramp up of chip production from the 2nd generation Sandy Bridge line.

While there's a couple of mobile processors in the line-up, the bulk of the range is aimed at the desktop workstation, with three overclockable chips for gamers and a new push into the all-in one sector dominated by Apple, which Kirk Skaugen, general manager of Intel's the PC client group, predicted would be the wave of the future.

"I was in Japan about a week and a half ago and pretty much the entire PC market is converted to all-in-ones with 100 per cent TV, and it's all Core i7," he said. "They're very thin panels and they're all over the house. That gets exciting when you look forward to voice and gesture and everything.

Skaugen said that the graphics engine had been completely reworked to double performance over Sandy Bridge, and gives x23 speeds from this time three years ago using its Quick Sync Video. While Skaugen said Intel wasn't trying to put graphics card manufacturers out of business, citing full DirectX 11, OpenGL 3.1 and OpenCL 1.1 support, it was intending to own the laptop and thin computing market.

On that note, Chipzilla didn't include 3rd generation tri-gate Ultrabook processors in Monday's announcement. Those, along with a vPro range for business, will be announced in the next couple of months, to the frustration of some laptop manufacturers. Ultrabooks will only get two cores and are designed to run on lower voltages, and we won't be seeing tri-gate Atoms until next year Skaugen said.

Besides the new graphics engine, Intel has included some new security features built into the chip, including a Secure Key random number generator for use in encryption, a system called OS Guard that's enabled with Windows 8 that protects against some malware, and its fourth version of anti-theft technology, which can lock a laptop remotely using Wi-Fi and 3G, and broadcast its GPS location.

"We think, when you put the anti-theft sticker on the outside of your PC, just like originally in the car days when you put the first security systems on cars, it'll hopefully dramatically start reducing the amount of theft of notebooks," he said, somewhat optimistically, given the nature of opportunist crime.

System boot times have been cut Skaugen said, and the new chips include Smart Connect systems to download email and social networking content automatically. Cutting the amount of time needed to get to data is one of Intel's prime goals, he said.

Intel has already released Ivy Bridge-capable chipsets, which can also handle 2nd generation cores, and 10 are available at launch. For connectivity they, and the new processors, have full support for USB 3.0, PCIe 3.0 and Intel's own Thunderbolt connections. This latter system has been a slow starter outside Apple, but Skaugen promised hundreds of new devices by the end of the year.

Looking ahead, Intel is on track for making 14 and 10nm process shifts using existing technology explained Mark Bohr, its senior fellow in logic technology development. He said he'd love to have EUV technology available but wasn't counting on it, so had a solution using immersion lithography ready to go. ®

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