Intel details first CPU with integrated GPU

Written by Ben Hardwidge

February 10, 2009 // 8:19 p.m.

Tags: #32nm #45nm #clarkdale #cpu #gpu #nehalem-ex #westmere

As if the demonstration of the world’s first 32nm processor technology wasn’t enough to get people excited today, Intel has also decided to announce a veritable treasure chest of new products.

Some of these are based on Intel’s 45nm technology, while others are based on the newly announced 32nm transistors. The latter products are all codenamed with the Westmere umbrella name for the architecture, but they come in a number of interesting flavours.

Let’s kick off with the biggest news, which is the first CPU with an integrated GPU, codenamed Clarkdale. No specifics have been revealed about the GPU yet, but Intel told us that we could expect it to offer an improved equivalent of the integrated graphics found in Intel’s current G45 chipset. Designed for the mainstream market, the CPUs will feature two cores, but will also be able to handle four threads via HyperThreading.

Interestingly, while the CPU core in Clarkdale will be fabricated using Intel’s new 32nm technology, the chip’s DDR3 memory controller and GPU will be built using 45nm transistors. The three will sit together in a multi-chip package, and communicate via a high-speed QPI link.

The chips are designed to be used with Intel’s forthcoming mainstream 5-series chipsets, which will feature 16 PCI-E 2.0 lanes that can either be assigned to a single x16 slot or two x8 slots. Intel hasn’t yet announced whether the chipsets will support CrossFire or SLI, but we’d expect them to support both given Intel’s commitment to the two technologies when it launched the X58 chipset - it will require validation on AMD's and Nvidia's part as well.

Also designed for the 5-series chipsets is Intel’s new line of mainstream quad-core CPUs, which are codenamed Lynnfield. These will be produced with 45nm transistors and will be able to handle eight threads via HyperThreading. Meanwhile, Intel has also announced two equivalent mobile CPUs, codenamed Clarksfield and Arrandale, which will feature four 45nm cores (eight threads with HyperThreading) and two 32nm cores (four threads with HyperThreading) respectively. Like Clarkdale, Arrandale will also feature integrated graphics.

Okay, so that’s the mainstream segment covered off, but what do performance freaks stand to get out of the 32nm revolution? Well, this is where it starts to get interesting, as Intel has revealed its plans to make a top-end six-core desktop processor that’s capable of handling twelve threads with HyperThreading. Codenamed Gulftown, the new CPU is scheduled to be released in 2010. In addition to this, Intel has now officially revealed its plans for the first eight-core Xeon processor, codenamed Nehalem-EX - this will be based on the current 45nm process technology.

The company also says that it plans to use the extra transistor budget freed up in the move to the 32nm technology to add some new features. These will probably be officially announced as a subsequent version of SSE at a later date, and Intel says that it’s "similar to adding SSE4.1 in Penryn." The new features will include seven new instructions for accelerating encryption and decryption algorithms, which Intel says could allow full disk encryption.

Do you have a craving for more cores or are you content with your current CPU? Tell us in the forums.

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