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Intel officially launches Sandy Bridge processors

Says its better for games, videos and general performance

Intel’s big CES announcement was no surprise to anyone in the audience, but that in no way diminished its importance. Today saw the official launch of the second generation Core processors, code named Sandy Bridge.

Kicking off the presentation was Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel Corporation. Setting the scene, Otellini commented on how connected devices were key to the future, whether that be Smart TVs, Netbooks, Tablet devices or even in-car technology systems.

Otellini touched on Intel’s continued commitment to established mobile platforms, but also that it is investing heavily in automotive technology, while still maintaining the importance of server based platforms. He also made of point of mentioning that Intel had been working closely with Google on its Chrome OS platform, a fact that may give Intel’s long term partner, Microsoft, pause for thought.

But the star of the show was always going to be Sandy Bridge, all 1.16 billion transistors of it, and Intel wheeled out Mooley Eden to evangelise about the new platform. Mooley is always great value up on stage, and he was the perfect MC for Sandy Bridge, making the launch of an already exciting product feel even more of an event.

The second generation Core platform isn’t just about improved performance, although it does deliver that in spades, it’s about increased functionality. Or to quote Mooley, it’s about “improving user experience”. And that user experience will be improved on several levels, and due to a plethora of new features hidden inside Sandy Bridge’s svelte 32nm package.

The next generation integrated graphics controller that comes part and parcel with Sandy Bridge is core to the new chip’s functionality. Mooley claimed that Sandy Bridge provides graphics performance that’s better than 40 to 50 per cent of discrete graphics solutions. Now that may sound impressive, but in reality we doubt that it will stand up too well against mid-range or above graphics cards when it comes to 3D gaming performance.

To be fair to Intel, though, the vast majority of PCs are not running high end graphics solutions, so what Sandy Bridge has to offer is surprisingly good graphics performance with a fraction of the power consumption or heat that would be associated with a discrete setup.

Also, let’s not forget that more and more consumers are buying notebooks rather than desktops now, so a Sandy Bridge equipped notebook could provide a perfectly adequate gaming experience, whereas a similarly priced machine a year or so ago would have struggled.

To prove this point Mooley brought Gabe Newell – MD of Valve – up on stage to show off Portal 2 running on a Sandy Bridge system. Besides making all Half Live fans in the audience salivate, the demo showed that Sandy Bridge could provide a gaming experience that’s at least up there with the current crop of consoles.

But the video controller portion of Sandy Bridge isn’t just about gaming, it has also been designed to make it easier for us to make the most of all our digital media. Anyone who’s had to wait around while video is transcoded and transferred to their iPhone or iPod will be glad to hear that this process is significantly improved using the new generation Core architecture.

Quick Sync Video, as Intel calls it, makes the process of transcoding digital files exponentially faster. So, if you’re rushing to catch a flight and you want to fill your smartphone or tablet with video, Sandy Bridge could be the difference between an entertaining or dull journey.

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