Quick refresher for the uninitiated: "System on a Chip" (SoC) refers to the integration of all the components in a PC, onto a single chip, and believe it or not, anyone out there with an iPhone or iPad is using a CPU that does that right now. Apple's A4 CPU includes the GPU, and memory can be "packaged" on top of this CPU/GPU package.
So enter Intel: their new "Sandy Bridge" line of CPU's are here to deliver something similar, but beyond the mobile handheld scale. It'll arrive early in 2011, and Intel has some big aspirations with their new tiny toy.
It's coming in at just 32 nanometers, and introduces a new "ring" style architecture that allows for the GPU on board to share resources like system cache and memory with the CPU's core, basically delivering graphics and computational power much more efficiently than in the past.
A revamped version of Intel's Turbo Boost Technology is also make a debut, designed to better shift loads in CPU cores and graphics when needed to give a performance boost, or save power depending on the task at hand. There's no hardcore benchmarks for the new GPU inside the Sandy Bridge CPUs, but Intel is boasting HD video, mainstream 3D gaming, and online multimedia as easily handled tasks. At the conference this week, a demo of hardware accelerated video was shown that also detailed the ease at which the CPU converted video formats.
Short term implications? It won't be long before your netbook becomes a decent gaming rig. Long term implications? SoC CPU's have the potential to disrupt the way computers are built and used, since traditionally separate and power hungry components can all be condensed onto one chip. The iPad is a brilliant example of this, and an Intel-based tablet computer could have equally powerful 3D-media rich capabilities as well.
It's not a shake up for the graphics card industry, but rivals might want to re-think their mobile and entry-level strategy for video cards. And lastly, for the channel, SoC simply means more value. Selling a system with a Sandy Bridge CPU can potentially guarantee your customers better longevity, future proofing, and less maintenance and upgrade requirements.
We'll be on the look out for AMD's SoC response.
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