The volume production of the newest generation of Intel’s desktop and notebook CPU’s are set top begin at an earlier date than was originally predicted because of the response to the enthusiasm that the chip buyers like Apple who has sampled the new parts that they are offering.
Intel’s president and chief executive Paul Otellini said that Intel began the sampling of its Sandy Bridge chips to the vendors over the last quarter. There has been a strong positive feedback from the buyers which has accelerated the company’s production rate. The Sandy Bridge chips are expected to hit the market late this year which will make it likely that they will be integrated into Macs by early 2011.
The 32-nanometer factory ramp has been accelerated and the company has raised the capex guidance so that the anticipated demand will be met when the time comes.
Apple to Use Intel CPUs
The up and coming Sandy Bridge family of chips is set to replace Intel’s Nehalem micro-architecture currently being used by Apple’s Core i5 and i7-equipped iMacs and MacBook Pros. The I5 and i7 chips are referred to as Arrandale. Apple’s entry level Macs include the Mac mini and MacBook which will continue to use the Intel’s earlier Core 2 Duo generation of chips.
Although Apple is considered to be the first PC maker to release a Nehalem-based system, the company still seems reluctant to move its notebooks to Nehalem because the new design prevented the Mac maker from continuing to build “two-chip” notebooks that can be paired with Intel’s CPU with their hybrid GPU-chipset integrated component form NVIDIA. Intel’s “HD Graphics” chip is integrated into the CPU itself with the Arrandale mobile chips.
Since Intel is obviously weaker than NVIDIA in the area of graphics processing, Apple has seen fit to use both of Intel’s chipset and a separate NVIDIA graphics chip so it can achieve an acceptable video performance in its i5 andi7-based Macs. This has made Apple decide to continue using Intel’s Core 2 Duo paired with the NVIDIA chip in all of its products except for the high end ones because they had a three-chip solution and thought that this was more acceptable when it came to cost and efficiency.
Sandy Bridge’s Unveiling
The new design of Intel’s Sandy Bridge is said to push the concept of integration further. Instead of demanding the application of an external Intel-designed chipset, Sandy Bridge will integrate the memory controller, graphics and standard chipset features directly into the CPU die, which will result n a “System on a chip” design. This is similar to the integrated Application Processor components that are used in mobile devices like the Apple’s custom A4 that is used inside the iPad and iPhone 4.
Even if the Sandy Bridge chips aren’t clocked as fast as the existing Nehalem chips, they still promise to deliver faster performance because they have a minimum of four cores, improvements to the internal data bus and an enhanced “Advanced Vector Extensions” which will be built upon SSE so it can provide a better floating point performance.
Adding to that, the Sandy Bridge chips are specifically designed to run cooler and more energy efficient, which is purposely targeted towards the more mobile notebook systems. It is not confirmed whether Apple will pursue this move toward Sandy Bridge and unify its Mac architectures under one design. They might choose to move Sandy Bridge on the high end and still use the cheaper Core 2 Duo parts on the lower end Macs, but this news is certainly more promising than that.