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Intel's next must-have upgrade: a look at Sandy Bridge
Written by Daniel   
Wednesday, 29 September 2010 16:31

From ARS Technica

Intel's next must-have upgrade: a look at Sandy Bridge

Intel's current generation of Westmere parts marks the end of one era and the start of another. On the one hand, Westmere kicks off the 32nm process node, which is more important than normal because it marks the point at which you can make an x86 system on a chip (SoC) for every segment, from embedded up to servers. But Westmere marks the end of the P6 era—the architecture that has powered Intel's most successful processors since its debut with the Pentium Pro makes its curtain call with Westmere. In its place is a brand-new architecture, which Intel has codenamed Sandy Bridge.

In terms of its overall block diagram, Sandy Bridge will look familiar to any student of the P6 architecture. There's a similar mix of execution units, although the labor has been redistributed a bit (e.g., the AGUs are now general, and not specialized to load or store). And there's the same group of three main dispatch ports, with ports 0, 1, and 5 still hosting the actual scalar and vector math hardware.

But if you look a bit deeper, you can see that Sandy Bridge isn't yet another P6 derivative from Intel. It looks a bit like a fusion of the Pentium 4 architecture and the P6; or, alternately, you could say that it looks like neither. Whatever you call it, it's clear that Sandy Bridge is the first truly new microarchitecture from Intel since Atom, and it's the first new desktop microarchitecture since the Pentium 4. It's such a departure from the P6 lineage that we can say that the P6 line, which began with the Pentium Pro, officially ends with the current-generation, 32nm Westmere processors.


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