Sandy Bridge is the culmination of a major Intel design effort to achieve a respectable level of graphics performance and make it a standard feature in all Intel mainstream processors going forward. This week at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Intel engineers were fairly candid in explaining what Sandy Bridge can and can't do.
First, some background. A number of technical sessions at IDF were devoted to discussing Sandy Bridge's graphics technology and the design teams that came together to take this critical feature out of the chipset--a separate companion chip--and put it, for the first time, in the main processor, or CPU.
Intel integrated graphics silicon started appearing in many mainstream laptops about six years ago. And since then has shipped in the lion's share of PCs sold worldwide. While this has made Intel the leading graphics chip supplier, it has also made it the perennial target of criticism from gaming devotees, who claim--rightfully so in many cases--that Intel graphics fall woefully short in handling a number of mainstream games. In turn, this has led to Intel rebuttals and corresponding primers on Intel integrated graphics.
And Nvidia, a leading graphics chip supplier, has always offered its two cents on Intel's graphics technology. "Today's visual computing applications--like photo and video editing, playing games, and browsing the Web--use a GPU for the best experience," Nvidia said in a statement just prior to IDF. Standalone graphics processing units from Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices almost invariably offer better performance, particularly on games, but can add cost and, in the case of laptops, can up power consumption requirements.
At IDF, Intel engineers described the markets they can, and cannot, address with Sandy Bridge's graphics. Sandy Bridge technology will be part of Intel Core i series mobile processors to be introduced into laptops early next year, with the first Sandy Bridge laptop announcements expected at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
"We're not trying to target the most high-end discrete (standalone) card. We don't have the bandwidth, we don't have the power budget. We're trying to do the best experience for the mobile platform," said Opher Kahn, senior principal engineer on the Sandy Bridge design team. … Read more