Intel's Sandy Bridge appears to be a flier -

Details have begun to emerge of Intel’s hotly anticipated Sandy Bridge processors ahead of their scheduled unveiling at the CES this week, showing the firm's emphasis on producing high powered processors with significantly reduced power consumption.

The second generation Core architecture, widely known by its codename Sandy Bridge, is about to be released on desktop and laptop machines using the 32nm Westmere die shrink from last year, an extension of the Nehalem architecture, though Sandy Bridge has a range of features that have not been seen before. 

Intel is again launching under the familiar brands of Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7, with 14 desktop CPUs to be released at prices ranging from approximately £75 to £250.

One of the main features to be pushed is the unification of a various components in the processor a major factor in supporting the drive towards lower power consumption.  As highlighted by Extreme Tech, The PCI Express (PCIe) controller, memory controller and video functions are all located within the processor die, which is a significant change with major performance repercussions as it unifies computing subsystems that have up until now been separate.   

This unification essentially means that as all the functions are located within the processor die it is possible to share data and power much more efficiently than before, a point highlighted in bit-tech’s performance and power consumption analysis.

With the inclusion of the graphics unit on the main processor the new HD 2000/3000 GPU is capable of supporting 3D Stereoscopic Blu-ray playback at 1080p over HDMI along with the usual HD audio.  Tweak Town also notes that  also get DX10.1 and Open GL 3.0 support and 3D gaming support, though no DX11 at the moment.

PC Mag highlights the fact that Intel has put particular focus on the CPUs' media prowess in general, from the built-in DX 10.1 capabilities to new programming that Intel has promised will considerably improve video transcoding, photo editing, and other similar tasks such as watching Blu-ray 3D content.

There has also been talk of consumers being able to watch film in the highest quality video streaming setting 1080p for the first time with Sandy Bridge.

Most of the reaction to the new processor is very positive, with a common belief that AMD will have a lot to live up to with the release of its own Bulldozer processor. Tom’s Hardware notes Intel’s claims that there is up to a 30 percent performance improvement against the previous Lynnfield and Clarkdale-based processors, a feat of improvement that that is unlikely to be repeated by AMD, which continues to launch incrementally faster processors rather than the large jump that is seen with Sandy Bridge.

Furthermore it is thought that the block of fixed function logic that specifically addresses video encoding means that Sandy Bridge comes with is expected to leave AMD and Nvidia about a year behind in development.

It is suggested by TweakTown that AMD will be happy to note that a new motherboard will need to be purchased in order to support the new chip due to the inclusion of a new processor socket known as LGA1155, which has one pin less than the previous LGA1156 socket.

Overall it seems that despite the hype that has surrounded Sandy Bridge, Intel has managed to produce a high performance, low powered second generation processor to a high standard. But we wonder why the reviews have come ahead of the "official" announcement. Could it be, perhaps, to queer AMD's Fusion pitch, also expected at CES this week. The spy in this video looks a little like Paul Otellini while AMD's Dark Mayor makes a bijou appearance at the very end...