A purported Sandy Bridge die shot is making the rounds and may reveal some additional video goodness built into Intel's next-gen CPU. SemiAccurate has spotted an unassuming logic block that it says is responsible for video transcoding. According to the site, the transcode block only takes up about 3 mm² of die area. Additional details are scarce, however.
With video decode acceleration largely conquered by Intel's last integrated graphics processor, speeding the transcoding process seems like the next logical step. Nvidia has long advocated using the, ahem, CUDA processors in its graphics chips to accelerate the conversion of video from one format to another. It's unclear whether Intel is taking a similar approach with Sandy Bridge's shader processors or whether the transcode block is a fixed-function affair that does its own heavy lifting.
GPU-accelerated transcoding has been supported by several generations of graphics cards, but it's yet to really take off. With Intel's weight behind it, a Sandy Bridge transcode engine could see broader software support than has been enjoyed by competing graphics chip makers. I can only hope that whatever transcode logic has built into Sandy Bridge is flexible enough to accelerate transcoding of not only low-res video for portable devices, but also high-quality content for home movie libraries.