Intel talks Sandy Bridge and Oak Trail

Computex 2010: Keynotes about tomorrow

Atom logoINTEL DIDN’T HAVE much to announce at Computex as far as new products go, but they did offer a peek into the future. Sandy Bridge, Oak Trail, and Canoe Lake were things bandied about at Dadi Perlmutter’s keynote.

Most of the talk centered around Atom based notebooks, netbooks and widgets. Pinetrail has tons and tons of new netbooks out there, and more importantly, a lot of non-PC items are starting to show up with x86 on board. Lukcily, these were not limited to the usual widgets, Intel showed things from exercise machines to robots.

The most interesting was a Sony broadcast quality camera with an x86 board on it. It also has WiMax, so theoretically, you can just take the camera, go out filming, and put things on TV in realtime. While this may sound like something that has been done since, oh, say, 1972, this one is different because of WiMax. The camera theoretically has enough bandwidth to broadcast HD directly from itself to the station, no expensive satellite truck needed anymore. That is real progress.

Oak Trail is the next gen Pine Trail Atom for netbooks and crotchtops. If it has anything like the advances of Moorestown, it will be a category changer. Intel says it will be passively cooled, so battery life will go through the roof, no fan = no fan power draw as well. No fan also means that you can make things really thin, so you have a win/win situation.

Intel is promising sub-15mm tablets and sub-20mm netbooks with Oak Trail, and they demo’d it with a part called Canoe Lake. This is a dual core netbook with HT, so four virtual cores, in a package well under an inch thick. The battery is full height, which explains the cut out at the bottom of the screen.


Canoe Lake Macb^h^h^hconcept netbook Air^h^h^hignore that please

If Intel ever gets video acceleration working under Linux, this could be quite a nice notebook, not just a netbook, with enough battery for long haul flights. Before you say it will never happen, think back to the Intel Metro notebook, the first really thin subnotebook out there. That concept had a lot of features removed, and was productized as the MacBook Air. Is Canoe Lake the MacBook Lite?

The last thing Dadi showed off was Sandy Bridge, the next gen desktop CPU. The demo was interesting for it’s positioning and for what it didn’t show more than what it showed. What it showed was Mass Effect 2 running on a discrete card and Sandy Bridge with all effects turned on, lighting, particles and the rest. Considering the product is not out for another 6+ months, and there is a lot of driver optimization to do, this is a good sign.


Discrete vs Sandy in a static test

What was not said however were things like resolution, what the competitive discrete chip was, and more importantly, what version of DX they were running. To me, the part that deflated the demo was that the Mass Effect 2 demo was simply the characters standing there in their idle loop. No movement, no action, nothing.

This tells me the drivers were far from ready, and that the demo had a single scenario of ME2 that would work, but little more. Shoot a gun and more than a bad guy blows up, and frame rates get into very small numbers. Mooly had a similar demo with World of Warcraft, a most definitely non-DX11 game, and it was shown off fully running, not just sitting there.

Still, the drivers are early, but that’s what Intel said for the i965G, G35, G45, and the ‘dales. I will believe it works when I see it. Word on the street has Sandy a little more than 2x as fast as the ‘dales, so there is potential for an upside surprise.

Next came Renee James, and the big announcement there was an Intel App store called App Up. It puts a widget on your desktop that you can use to buy apps ala Ubuntu, Apple and Android, and works in Windows and Meego. Why Windows needs an app store is beyond me, but now you have one. Yay?

I do hope Meego does well though, and an app store is now a necessity for any mobile OS. Intel has been working on a dev program for over a year now, so the store should be pretty well stacked on day one. It looks like Intel is serious about making a real ecosystem for Atom, so lets hope this one works out.

To end on an up note, Intel put up a video of Sean Maloney. Sean usually gives the keynote that Dadi did, but is on medical leave. It is good to see that Sean is on the comeback trail, something we hope happens before Oak Trail. Get well Sean, and we look forward to seeing you in person at Computex 2011.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate