Intel Sandy Bridge details emerge

If you fancy upgrading to one of Intel’s next generation of CPUs next year, then it looks like you’re going to be forced into a buying a whole new motherboard too. The rumour cauldron has been bubbling over with details about Intel’s new Sandy Bridge CPUs, which are apparently going to bring two new sockets with them.

Over at the XtremeSystems forums, JCornell claims to have got hold of an engineering sample of a 2.4GHz dual-core Sandy Bridge chip. As well as posting a photo of the chip, he’s also posted a CPU-Z screenshot, showing some of the specs. The chip has a 100MHz base clock, and also supports Hyper-Threading, so it can handle up to four simultaneous threads.

The CPU has a block of 3MB of Level 3 cache sits on top of two 256KB blocks of Level 2 cache. Interestingly, the CPU-Z also shows two new acronyms in the list of Instructions – AES and AVX.

Of course, this might be easy to fake, you might think, but yesterday another source confirmed many of the details above, while also bringing us plenty more information. The new gossip-mining Taiwan correspondent at fellow UK tech site bit-tech has managed to snare a whole load of information about Sandy Bridge, a lot of which corresponds with JCornell’s pictures.

Let’s start with the new socket, which bit-tech says will be called LGA1155. Yes, that means that it’s only one pin short of LGA1166, but the sockets are apparently not compatible.

This isn’t just because of the extra pin, but because the orientation of pin 1 has changed, and because the socket notch has been moved slightly to the right, being positioned 11.5mm from the centre, compared with 9.5mm on LGA1156 CPUs. If you look at the photo on XtremeSystems, then you can see that the CPU’s notch is in exactly the right place to verify this.

According to bit-tech, the LGA1155 Sandy Bridge CPUs will be fabricated on a 32nm process, but the chip packages will now integrate everything onto one 32nm die. Comparatively, today’s Clarkdale chips have the graphics processor, PCI-E controller and memory controller in the same CPU package, but they’re on a separate 45nm piece of silicon. The chips will apparently use a dual-channel DDR3 memory controller, as used in today’s Core i5 chips.

The site also confirms the existence of AVX and AES, saying that they stand for Advanced Vector Extensions and Advanced Encryption Standard. But hold on, didn’t we say two new sockets? We did indeed. We already knew that Intel planned to introduce at least one new CPU socket next year, but Intel apparently has yet another socket planned for a further branch of Sandy Bridge called Sandy Bridge E, where E probably stands for Extreme.

Called LGA2011, the socket has 645 more pins than the current top-end Core i7 socket – LGA1366. According to bit-tech, the CPU will come with a four-channel DDR3 memory controller and will also introduce us to PCI-E 3, commanding 32 lanes that can either be split across to 16-lane slots or four eight-lane slots.

The word is that LGA1155 Sandy Bridge samples could possibly start popping up at the end of this year, although it’s more likely to be in the first quarter of 2011. Meanwhile Sandy Bridge E chips are expected to appear later on 2011, which is pretty handy given that the socket number is exactly the same as the year.

This is of course all at the rumour stage at the moment, but with two sources confirming many of the same facts, including photographic evidence and CPU-Z screenshots, we reckon this probably isn’t far from the truth.