At IDF 2011, Intel reiterated the need to transform the PC experience by designing products around the user's needs and experiences. The change in its product design philosophy by employing anthropologists and social science experts to first define the processor's capabilities based on user experience is a significant step in altering how new products like the Ivy Bridge are built. It's no longer about building more processing capabilities in the hardware and then passing the product on to software developers to build applications for users. Today, Intel is more concerned about building computing devices that people want, both from an emotional and a rational perspective.
We've heard a lot about Ultrabooks since Computex and this new range of mobile devices will first hit our store shelves beginning this quarter and in time for the year end holiday season. These new Ultrabooks will be powered by the current 2nd generation Intel Core processors (also codenamed Sandy Bridge).
However, these new range of Ultrabooks will have a rather short lifespan as the next generation of processors codenamed Ivy Bridge will hit the market in the first half of 2012. Even if final Ivy Bridge equipped Ultrabooks were to hit the market by the end of the first half of 2012, there's only like about 9 months of shelf life for the current generation of Ultrabooks. We don't expect any delays in the delivery of Ivy Bridge-based Ultrabooks since ODMs and OEMs already have a wide range of product designs on display at IDF. The only delay we could foresee is if Intel fails to deliver volume shipments of the processor due to poor product yields from its new 22nm technology node.
The new Ivy Bridge processors will be socket compatible with current motherboards used for Sandy Bridge processors. This means that any notebook or desktop designed for Sandy Bridge will be able to directly take the new Ivy Bridge as a drop-in replacement. We expect this backward compatibility to be very advantageous for Intel as any current notebook designed for Sandy Bridge could immediately be shipped with Ivy Bridge when they become available.
Besides a significant shrink of the transistors, Ivy Bridge will contain up to 1.4 billion transistors - at least for the initial launch of the quad-core version. The design is rather similar to Sandy Bridge, where a common low level cache is shared among the cores and graphics processor using the high speed ring bus architecture.
Graphics and media will be significantly enhanced and Intel promises an even more immersive graphical experience with Ivy Bridge. The built-in graphics processor will now support DirectX 11. Intel also added hardware tesselation (with two programmable stages and a fixed function tesselator) as well as support for compute shader. And to cut power usage from accessing the low level cache through the ring bus, Intel added a level 3 cache within the graphics processor for better power management and performance.
In addition to 3D graphics enhancements, expect Ivy Bridge to deliver even more performance through its Intel Quick Sync Video technology at roughly the same power levels.
Overclockers in particular will welcome some of the new features found in Ivy Bridge such as increased max ratio support from 57 to 63, dynamic overclocking by changing clock ratio without rebooting, improved DDR overclocking with support for DDR3-2800 and finer grain frequency clock adjust (with added 200MHz support).