If you've been around long enough to remember Intel's 486 processor, you just have to marvel at the level of integration on the modern day CPU, whether you consider Intel or AMD's latest. 8MB of cache, four full execution cores and an integrated memory controller; these functional blocks alone offer orders of magnitude more on-chip resources than the basic function devices of yesteryear. And the very fact that they're resident, on-die, versus requiring system-level communication to access them, makes these processing elements even faster.
Intel Sandy Bridge Die Map
The most significant integration effort for Intel with Sandy Bridge of course, was to integrate their graphics core on die which meant the architecture would have to undergo a process migration from the previous generation Arrandale 45nm graphics core to the new 32nm technology found on the main processor die itself. As you can see, along with its logic and memory structures, the Intel HD Graphics 3000 core found on the Core i7-2820QM consumes a large chunk of die real estate. Another note-worthy design change here is that the chip's shared L3 cache is also now available to the graphics core for lightning-fast local memory access.
At the system level, Intel's new notebook platform architecture based on Sandy Bridge and the H67 Express chipset, is also a two chip solution like Arrandale was configured. The processor has 16 PCI Express 2.0 lanes available as well as a dual channel DDR3 memory controller capable of speeds up to 1333MHz. Intel's H67 Express chip offers the rest of the IO functionality for the system, including 6 SATA ports with option RAID capability, a Gigabit Ethernet MAC, display interface interfaces for HDMI, DVI and Displayport, as well as eight channel HD audio and eight additional PCI Express 2.0 lanes. Unfortunately the platform has been delivered sans USB 3.0 or 6Gps SATA connectivity at this juncture, which seems like an oversight but when you consider how long these chips have probably been in design, it's almost hard to fault Intel for the omission; we said almost
. This is Intel we're talking about after all, right?
Finally, here's a quick look at Intel's Sandy Bridge Mobile roadmap moving forward. Dual-core and quad-core variants will replace Arrandale and Clarksfield versions starting in Q1 2011.