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CES 2011: Do PCs really need to be vastly more powerful? Intel hopes you think so

Intel's 2nd Generation Core processors boast 1.16 billion transistors and on-chip graphics processing

1 min read
CES 2011: Do PCs really need to be vastly more powerful? Intel hopes you think so

Intel launched its 2nd Generation Intel Core Processor family, code named Sandy Bridge, today, the day before the opening of the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. Sandy Bridge chips are fast—Intel says some 69 percent faster on some benchmarks than the previous generation—and powerful. The new Core processors boast 1.16 billion transistors on a chip, manufactured using 32-nanometer technology. If you were to take the performance boost and apply it to a Boeing 767 aircraft, , the company said, you’d get to your destination twice as fast (not counting check in and security screening, of course).

But do consumers, who this show is all about, need this much power? Intel spent much of its morning press conference make a case that they do. One argument—the extra power means a laptop could replace a game machine, and Intel brought up folks from game companies to prove this point with demos. To make another point in favor of souping up home computers, Mooley Eden, vice president of Intel’s PC Client Group, demonstrated photo organization software, blasting through images and videos organized by person, place, and date. He also pointed out that today people do a lot of format conversion—bringing home videos from camera to laptop to cell phone, for example, and the new Core processors will make this process hugely faster, converting a 4-minute high definition video to the iPod format in 16 seconds.

Finally, he touted the chips’ appeal to the movie industry—they have built in content protection, which, Kevin Tsujihara, vice president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group, says will make studios willing to release movies for download sooner and in higher definition.

For more gadget news, check out our complete coverage of the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show.

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.

Avicena

If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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