Intel's 2nd-gen chip arrives, with Hollywood in tow

Chip giant's second-generation Intel Core processors are upon us. Hundreds of PC models will be released over the next several months based on Intel's highest-performing chip to date.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
3 min read

Intel is officially announcing its next-generation processor tomorrow--and Hollywood is playing a big role.

Sandy Bridge--or what Intel now calls the 2nd Generation Intel Core processor family--is a big step for the chipmaker because, for the first time in a mainstream product, the graphics chip is grafted directly onto the main processor, boosting performance. This design essentially provides the graphics function for free, allowing PC makers to bring out laptops that don't have to always rely on separate graphics processors from Advanced Micro Devices or Nvidia. (For more on the technical details of the new chip, see this companion report.)

"It's all about the visual experience and smarter performance," Tom Kilroy, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Sales and Marketing Group, said in an interview last week. "It's well documented how online video is going on across the globe. There's over 100 million people doing user-generated content creation. So, what we tried to do with the architecture is really improve that experience. We're calling it the User Visual Experience."

One of Sandy Bridge's marquee features is high-speed, on-the-fly conversion between data formats. The chip also includes the next version of Intel's Turbo Boost--version 2.0, a key technology that speeds up and slows down the processor to optimize performance and power, respectively.

Sandy Bridge highlights:

  • 20 new Core i3, i5, i7 processors: First chips available (January) in laptops will be quad-core.
  • More than 500 new PC systems: coming from PC makers worldwide.
  • Enhanced graphics silicon: built directly onto the main processor.
  • Quick Sync Video: accelerates encoding/decoding of media formats.
  • Turbo Boost 2.0: power-efficient overclocking of processor.
  • Intel Wireless Display 2.0: WiDi 2.0 beams content to big-screen HDTVs at 1080pHD resolution.
  • Intel Insider: direct access to movies, not available before, on PCs in high definition.

Access to Hollywood content is also baked into the chip--a technology called Intel Insider. "This will unlock premium high-definition content, like movies, to your PC," Kilroy said. "We've gone out and engaged with the studios. So, you'll see Warner Bros. and Fox at launch [of Sandy Bridge] and several other studios to come. They're eagerly embracing this platform as a distribution means for premium high-end content--as Internet content [offered] directly to the end user."

Kilroy continued. "What Intel Insider does is deliver HD digital distribution rights to the PC. This could be enabled through multiple content storefronts through OEMs (PC makers), retailers like Best Buy. Essentially, the PC now becomes an on-ramp for HD 1080p movies," he said.

And Intel has added security features to protect the content. "And we've built in security capability into this platform that will enable end-to-end hardware protection for the content. So, it will protect the premium content rights of the studios," according to Kilroy.

Among the hundreds of new systems expected to flood the market over the next several months, Hewlett-Packard and Dell will come out with high-end quad-core laptops. Other dual-core systems will follow in February, according to Intel. "The quad core based systems will be available on January 9 and additional dual-core versions in February," Intel said in a statement.

Many new Sandy Bridge systems will be demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show, which begins on January 6 in Las Vegas.