Intel’s Sandy Bridge Celerons video features fused off

Lower cost means fewer features

Editor’s note: 22 March 2011, 3pm CST. We have more information on this story forthcoming. We are awaiting a response from Intel for additional technical details as their website does not seem to provide the full story.

Update 2: March 24, 2011, 3:00pm CST – Intel contacted us and requested a story correction claiming that video was a part of the Celerons. To make sure we were understanding the technical details correctly we asked Intel to answer a list of questions about what is and is not missing from the new Celeron GPUs. These parts are 6EU GPUs with a lot of non-EU circuitry removed as you can see from the die shots currently available.

The question of what exactly is missing was not an easy one to answer, Intel seems to have removed a great deal of technical information from their web site. Intel does not even list the type of ‘HD’ graphics, 2000, 3000, or a newer generation, much less state the EU count for their GPUs. See here, here and here.

Adding to the confusion was Intel listing the vague terms “Clear Video Technology” and “Clear Video HD Technology” without providing any definitions nor background information to help us translate the marketing-speak nonsense into something technically understandable. That said, the Celerons didn’t have either, the bigger parts did have the “HD” version, but the non-HD was not listed. HD is presumably a superset of non-HD, but since there is basically zero documentation on this anywhere we can find, it may not be the case.

Not wanting to update the story until we knew what was and was not in the new Celerons, we asked Intel. Basically we requested technical clarity on a long list of questions and asked about every little feature we could think of, and Intel graciously answered them all. With that in mind, we can update a few things about the feature set of the new GPUs.

Intel said that the biggest difference was that the Celerons lack ‘Quicksync’, aka hardware assisted video encode. Video decode for H.264, VC-1, and MPEG2 are still fully hardware decoded in the Celeron GPUs. All of the APIs listed as supported, DirectX 10.1, OpenGLx, and the rest are the same as the CoreSomething models too.

The other major difference between the two is post processing, and those are all missing on the Celerons. These include Skin Tone Enhancement, Total Color Control, and Adaptive Contrast Enhancement. This is a curious choice because these should be done in the EUs, not the hardware, and the count of those hasn’t changed in the Celeron, nor has the clock moved much. It looks like this is a software/market differentiation thing more than anything else.

There you have it. Sorry for any delays, and thanks to the guys at Intel for taking the time to answer our long and somewhat noxious list of questions.S|A

Intel LogoIn as much as we appreciate that Intel (INTC) is selling a range of CPUs and some of them have had certain functions fused off in the manufacturing process to create a range of models, something that has been done for years, we’re none too impressed by Intel’s latest move. The Intel Celeron B810 might only be an $86 mobile CPU, but Intel seems to have gone one step too far with the scalpel and cut out pretty much all of the graphics related features that makes Sandy Bridge’s graphics worthwhile.

Although the Celeron B810 still features automatically overclocking graphics from 650MHz to 950MHz as well as support for what Intel call FDI or flexible display interface, pretty much all of the remaining features are missing. Intel still refers to the graphics core as Intel HD Graphics, but we’re curious what is needed to make this moniker apply.

Some of the missing features such as InTRU 3D and support for WiDi is sort of understandable on a budget CPU like this, but not only has Intel dropped support for Clear Video HD, but even standard Clear Video isn’t supported which means that the graphics core can’t offload the CPU when it comes to video playback, features you’d expect to be part of an entry level CPU as this is where processor offloading makes the most sense.

On top of that we’re really disappointed to see lack of Clear Video technology which is one of the most impressive features of Intel’s latest graphics core and once again a feature that makes so much sense on an entry level processor, yet it’s not included at all. Not exactly encouraging news and it looks as if at least some of these features will be missing from Intel’s upcoming Pentium branded Sandy Bridge CPUs as well.

In as much as we can understand Intel dropping features like Turbo Boost, Hyper-Threading and even AES on some CPU models to be able to differentiate between all of their models, not even counting cache differentiation and clock speeds, this is just going a little bit too far. Not even AMD and Nvidia are going this far on their cheapest GPUs and when you decide to kill off even the most basic of features such as video playback acceleration then something has gone seriously wrong in the product planning department.S|A

Editor’s note: 22 March 2011, 3pm CST. We have more information on this story forthcoming. We are awaiting a response from Intel for additional technical details as their website does not seem to provide the full story.

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