Intel is launching its Ivy Bridge family of processors - the first to feature what it describes as a "3D transistor".
The initial release includes 13 quad-core processors, most of which will be targeted at desktop computers.
Further dual core processors, suitable for ultrabooks - thin laptops - will be announced "later this spring".
Intel and PC manufacturers expect the release to drive a wave of new sales.
"The momentum around the system design is pretty astonishing," Intel's PC business chief, Kirk Skaugen, who is spearheading the launch, told the BBC. More Read