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Quarterly Bulletin
New generation Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7

Development of processor platforms from Intel® tends to be a two-step Tick-Tock process. The Tick is moving forward by shrinking dimensions in the production process. Every second shift is the evolution of the micro architecture in the CPU and chipset and that’s called a Tock.
The third generation Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 (sometimes called Ivy Bridge) is the typical Tick, but some call it a Tick+. Tick refers to the shrinking to a 22nm process and the improved graphics from upgrading the GPU microarchitecture is considered a plus.  

”General embedded applications will get ten to thirty percent more work done on the same energy or battery life and we’ve changed the graphics architecture a lot,” says John Bradley, Nordic Sales Manager EMEA ESG at Intel® Sweden AB.
Along with the shrinking of the production process Intel® has introduced 3-D transistors. Intel® 3-D transistor uses three gates wrapped around the silicon channel built in three dimensions instead of two. According to Intel® 3-D transistors reduce current leakage in the transistors and allow operation on reduced voltage. The result from introducing 3-D transistors and moving from 32nm to 22nm process is the faster and more energy efficient Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 processor platform. It’ll give you more performance per watt than the predecessor.
“As geometries shrink we needed to do something about current leakage. What we have done is to rise up the gate from the substrate in the 3-D transistor,” says John Bradley.
Intel® Core™ i5/i7 boosts embedded PC performance
Intel 3-D Tri-Gate transistors form conducting channels on three sides of a vertical fin structure.

The new and improved graphics is called HD4000. Direct X11, Open CL 1.1 and Open GL 3.1 are supported and the number of graphical execution units is increased compared to prior HD3000. The improved graphics is useful in obvious application types like for instance Digital Signage and Gaming.  The overall performance increase along with improved graphics is a big leap forward, according to John Bradley.

”The platform have moved from support of two to three independent display and the pixel rates have increased by thirty to sixty percent,” he says. “That’s a lot.”

Advanced Vector Extensions, AVX are supported in the processor platform. AVX is an extension to the common set of x86 architecture instructions. AVX opens up for the possibility to use the CPU for complex floating point intensive calculations and thereby avoid a dedicated additional hardware. Such applications are found in Defence and Aviation.


Encoding, decoding and transcoding video

Additional embedded applications that may benefit from the improvements of Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 are the ones that include video encoding and decoding at high speeds. Intel® Quick Sync 2.0 is supported and improves the abilities for video transcoding or for that matter general data processing in Datacom and/or Telecom networks. Video transcoding is transformation of video signal from one format or standard to another.

”If you want high-speed encoding and decoding then you’ll see a doubling of the performance,” says John Bradley.

The use of laptops, TVs and smartphones require a huge amount of transcoding between H.263, MPEG-4, MPEG-2 and H.264 to access video content.
Increased performance per watt and improved graphics and media processing are the major improvements of interest for a great number of embedded applications. A number of additional features have been introduced or improved, features perhaps not of interest for use in a lot of applications but will definitely be considered crucial to some. USB 3.0 is the first example.

Increasing data transfer speeds with USB 3.0

USB is typically used to connect subsystems to the main system or interfacing modems or flash disks internally. An example of the prior is transferring large amounts of data from a mass spectrometer to a computer system for processing. Such an application would benefit from the fact that USB 3.0 is supported in Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7. The data transfer speed is theoretically 5 Gigabit/second (in practice about 4 Gigabit/second). It’s a substantial increase from the 480 Megabit/second (about 320 Megabit/second in real life) offered by USB 2.0. USB 3.0 would also be the preferred choice for the future.

”If you are doing a new design for a ten year life cycle you probably want to think about future proofing,” says John Bradley.

Data transfer speeds have increased in other interfaces as well. PCI Express is supported in its 3.0 version which is faster than 2.0, about 4 times according to John Bradley. The memory bandwidth to the DDR3 memory is about 20 Gigatransfers/second with an option to be increased with about 25%. The downside to the boost is an increased power consumption and heat generation.

Restarting in five seconds

A feature originally from the Ultrabook™ world of laptops is called Intel® Rapid Start. It’s not about fast boot but rather rapid restart from hibernate mode. In this case fast is being up and running in roughly 5 seconds. A condition for Intel® Rapid Start is the use of SSD storage, WiFi controllers from Intel® and an operating system with support for the functionality. It may be useful to one or another embedded application to shut off the system and have it restarted in only 5 seconds.
Application areas suitable for Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7
Remote management and security features are not all new but interesting to mention anyway. The Intel® Active Management Technology, AMT is supported in the latest version which is 8.0. AMT is about including functionality to avoid at least some of the tedious and expensive tasks of sending support personnel to restart, update, change or debug systems in remote areas and/or great numbers.

Application areas suitable

One of the many security features worth mentioning is Intel® OS Guard which among other things blocks applications that has been hacked or tampered with to attack the system. It also protects sensitive parts of the operating system from attacks from malicious code.

We’re probably going to see third generation Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 based embedded applications in areas like Medical Imaging, 3D radar and navigation in Offshore/Marine and Gaming/Infotainment due to the improved graphics performance of the platform. Advanced applications within Datacom/Telecom, Defence, Simulation and Industrial Automation are other areas where the new generation of Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 definitely will prove itself and its advantages.

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