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Intel confirms special accelerators in Sandy Bridge

An Intel executive confirms that new processor will have built-in circuitry to accelerate media applications, in addition to improved graphics for gaming.

At a Wells Fargo Securities conference earlier this month, an Intel vice president confirmed that Sandy Bridge will have special media acceleration capabilities, in addition to the oft-touted boost in graphics performance.

Sandy Bridge will have new media acceleration capabilities beyond the improved graphics function.
Sandy Bridge will have new media acceleration capabilities beyond the improved graphics function. Intel

The Sandy Bridge processor--to be announced January 5--will pack media acceleration circuitry, Stephen L. Smith, vice president and director of PC Client operations and enabling at Intel, confirmed at a Wells Fargo Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference held on November 9-10. CNET reported this capability earlier. Part of the conference--when Smith was speaking--was captured on an audio stream.

"The other cool thing is dedicated circuitry for media acceleration," Smith said, responding to a question from the audience. "All of us in our daily use, whether it's home videos or photos tend to pull things from the Internet, pull things from our own capture devices at home, bring them on to our PC, transform them into different formats...all of that will be dramatically faster if one utilizes this hardware acceleration, media acceleration that we have on Sandy Bridge," he said.

Sandy Bridge will support DirectX 10.1 and OpenCL 1.1--the latter used on Apple's Mac operating systems, a point Smith didn't mention but which CNET has previously reported. Certain graphics chips from Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia already support DirectX 11. Both OpenCL and DirectX are frameworks for speeding up games and media applications.

He also pointed out that Sandy Bridge should enable slimmer designs that perform more like mainstream laptops. "It enables us to build a notebook with a sleeker form factor and potentially longer battery life and still get great mainstream performance," he said.

Smith also reiterated that Intel is on track to deliver the 22-nanometer Ivy Bridge silicon--the follow-on to Sandy Bridge--by the end of 2011. "We're on track to develop our 22 nanometer with units in production by the end of 2011," he said. He also repeated that Intel has invested "six to eight billion dollars to equip up to four factories for 22-nanometer production."

"Ivy Bridge is a shrink of Sandy Bridge with some enhancements," he said.

A slide showed Intel getting to 8 nanometer chips by 2017.

He also addressed Intel's smartphone strategy. "You can expect some phones with Intel-based products in 2011...But with our Medfield processor, that goes into production in 2011, [you can expect] a significantly higher volume in 2012 for smartphones. Our strategy is to start at the top end of phones...then move our capability down over time."