Yesterday, Intel pulled back the curtains on the products from its 'Sandy Bridge' line of desktop and mobile CPU's, two days ahead of schedule. Though the company was supposed to debut the product line at CES tomorrow, the fact that several international manufacturers jumped the gun caused the company to move their launch up. According to Ars Technica, with 29 total SKU's (15 for desktops and 14 for laptops) this is the biggest product launch in the company's history.
For a detailed look at the exact specifications of the new product line, HULIQ recommends this article from Anandtech.com, but there are a number of things to draw for general consumer interest. The main thing to note is that, once again, the new CPU's have seen a dramatic efficiency boost. With a re-done architecture, the new processors mark up to a 50% boost in efficiency compared to the prior architecture.
The line is squarely aimed for now at the consumer market, with all of the parts being of two or four-core variants. Six-core CPU's for high-end workstations and servers, however, will be available by the end of the year. For the low and mid-range parts, the CPU's will reportedly be locked down at their stock frequency, but higher-end versions of the Sandy Bridge line will be 'unlocked', allowing over-clockers to increase chip frequency to the mid 4Ghz range (and potentially beyond).
Intel also heavily re-vamped the integrated graphics portion of the die. Though it is only Direct X 10 compatible (mid and high-end GPU's feature Direct X 11), it is reportedly more than enough to equal the performance of lower-end GPU's in the $50 price range. Intel's previous efforts at integrated graphics can only be described as abysmal, so it is nice to see that the company is taking video performance seriously. That said, the difference appears to be going from most recent games not running at all to running at minimum quality settings.
Those looking at upgrading to the new parts should note that the new line requires a brand-new motherboard. Existing LGA-1156 motherboards will not work with Sandy Bridge; instead, the new chips require a LGA-1155 motherboard with the 6-series chipset. Prices for the chips themselves range between $117 and $317. As of this writing, LGA-1155 boards are not yet at retail, but motherboards typically run between $50 and $100 depending on the features desired.