The Lineup

I don’t include a lot of super markety slides in these launch reviews, but this one is worthy of a mention:

Sandy Bridge is launching with no less than 29 different SKUs today. That’s 15 for mobile and 14 for desktop. Jarred posted his full review of the mobile Core i7-2820QM, so check that out if you want the mobile perspective on all of this.

By comparison, this time last year Intel announced 11 mobile Arrandale CPUs and 7 desktop parts. A year prior we got Lynnfield with 3 SKUs and Clarksfield with 3 as well. That Sandy Bridge is Intel’s biggest launch ever goes without saying. It’s also the most confusing. While Core i7 exclusively refers to processors with 4 or more cores (on the desktop at least), Core i5 can mean either 2 or 4 cores. Core i3 is reserved exclusively for dual-core parts.

Intel promised that the marketing would all make sense one day. Here we are, two and a half years later, and the Core i-branding is no clearer. At the risk of upsetting all of Intel Global Marketing, perhaps we should return to just labeling these things with their clock speeds and core counts? After all, it’s what Apple does—and that’s a company that still refuses to put more than one button on its mice. Maybe it’s worth a try.

Check Jarred’s article out for the mobile lineup, but on desktop here’s how it breaks down:

Processor Core Clock Cores / Threads L3 Cache Max Turbo Max Overclock Multiplier TDP Price
Intel Core i7-2600K 3.4GHz 4 / 8 8MB 3.8GHz 57x 95W $317
Intel Core i7-2600 3.4GHz 4 / 8 8MB 3.8GHz 42x 95W $294
Intel Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz 4 / 4 6MB 3.7GHz 57x 95W $216
Intel Core i5-2500 3.3GHz 4 / 4 6MB 3.7GHz 41x 95W $205
Intel Core i5-2400 3.1GHz 4 / 4 6MB 3.4GHz 38x 95W $184
Intel Core i5-2300 2.8GHz 4 / 4 6MB 3.1GHz 34x 95W $177
Intel Core i3-2120 3.3GHz 2 / 4 3MB N/A N/A 65W $138
Intel Core i3-2100 2.93GHz 2 / 4 3MB N/A N/A 65W $117

Intel is referring to these chips as the 2nd generation Core processor family, despite three generations of processors carrying the Core architecture name before it (Conroe, Nehalem, and Westmere). The second generation is encapsulated in the model numbers for these chips. While all previous generation Core processors have three digit model numbers, Sandy Bridge CPUs have four digit models. The first digit in all cases is a 2, indicating that these are “2nd generation” chips and the remaining three are business as usual. I’d expect that Ivy Bridge will swap out the 2 for a 3 next year.

What you will see more of this time around are letter suffixes following the four digit model number. K means what it did last time: a fully multiplier unlocked part (similar to AMD’s Black Edition). The K-series SKUs are even more important this time around as some Sandy Bridge CPUs will ship fully locked, as in they cannot be overclocked at all (more on this later).

Processor Core Clock Cores / Threads L3 Cache Max Turbo TDP
Intel Core i7-2600S 2.8GHz 4 / 8 8MB 3.8GHz 65W
Intel Core i5-2500S 2.7GHz 4 / 4 6MB 3.7GHz 65W
Intel Core i5-2500T 2.3GHz 4 / 4 6MB 3.3GHz 45W
Intel Core i5-2400S 2.5GHz 4 / 4 6MB 3.3GHz 65W
Intel Core i5-2390T 2.7GHz 2 / 4 3MB 3.5GHz 35W
Intel Core i5-2100T 2.5GHz 2 / 4 3MB N/A 35W

There are also T and S series parts for desktop. These are mostly aimed at OEMs building small form factor or power optimized boxes. The S stands for “performance optimized lifestyle” and the T for “power optimized lifestyle”. In actual terms the Ses are lower clocked 65W parts while the Ts are lower clocked 35W or 45W parts. Intel hasn’t disclosed pricing on either of these lines but expect them to carry noticeable premiums over the standard chips. There’s nothing new about this approach; both AMD and Intel have done it for a little while now, it’s just more prevalent in Sandy Bridge than before.

More Differentiation

In the old days Intel would segment chips based on clock speed and cache size. Then Intel added core count and Hyper Threading to the list. Then hardware accelerated virtualization. With Sandy Bridge the matrix grows even bigger thanks to the on-die GPU.

Processor Intel HD Graphics Graphics Max Turbo Quick Sync VT-x VT-d TXT AES-NI
Intel Core i7-2600K 3000 1350MHz Y Y N N Y
Intel Core i7-2600 2000 1350MHz Y Y Y Y Y
Intel Core i5-2500K 3000 1100MHz Y Y N N Y
Intel Core i5-2500 2000 1100MHz Y Y Y Y Y
Intel Core i5-2400 2000 1100MHz Y Y Y Y Y
Intel Core i5-2300 2000 1100MHz Y Y N N Y
Intel Core i3-2120 2000 1100MHz Y N N N N
Intel Core i3-2100 2000 1100MHz Y N N N Y

While almost all SNB parts support VT-x (the poor i3s are left out), only three support VT-d. Intel also uses AES-NI as a reason to force users away from the i3 and towards the i5. I’ll get into the difference in GPUs in a moment.

Introduction Overclocking: Effortless 4.4GHz+ on Air
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  • hmcindie - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    Why is that Quick Sync has better scaling? Very evident in the Dark Knight police car image as all the other versions have definite scaling artifacts on the car.

    Scaling is something that should be very easy. Why is there so big a difference? Are these programs just made to market new stuff and no-one really uses them because they suck? So big scaling differences between codepaths make no sense.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    It looks to me like some of the encodes have a sharpening effect applied, which is either good (makes text legible) or bad (aliasing effects) depending on your perspective. I'm quite happy overall with the slightly blurrier QS encodes, especially considering the speed.
  • xxxxxl - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    I've been so looking forward to SB...only to hear that H67 cant overclock CPU?!?!?!?!
  • digarda - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    Who needs the IGP for a tuned-up desktop PC anyway? Some for sure, but I see the main advantages of the SB GPU for business laptop users. As the charts show, for desktop PC enthusiasts, the GPU is still woefully slow, being blown away even by the (low-end) Radeon 5570. For this reason, I can't help feeling that the vast majority of overclockers will still want to have discrete graphics.

    I would have preferred to dual core (4-thread) models to have (say) 32 shaders, instead of the 6 or 12 being currently offered. At 32nm, there's probably enough silicon real estate to do it. I guess Intel simply didn't want the quad core processors to have a lower graphics performance than the dual core ones (sigh).

    Pity that the socket 2011 processors (without a GPU) are apparently not going to arrive for nearly a year (Q4 2011). I had previously thought the schedule was Q3 2011. Hopefully, AMD's Bulldozer-based CPUs will be around (or at least imminent) by then, forcing intel to lower the prices for its high-end parts. On the other hand, time to go - looks like I'm starting to dream again...
  • Exodite - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    Using myself as an example showing the drawback of limiting overclocking on H67 would be the lack of a good selection of overclocking-friendly micro-ATX boards due to most, if not all, of those being H67.

    Granted, that's not Intel's fault.

    It's just that I have no need for more than one PCIe x16 slot and 3 SATA (DVD, HDD, SSD). I don't need PCI, FDD, PS2, SER, PAR or floppy connectors at all.

    Which ideally means I'd prefer a rather basic P67 design in micro-ATX format but those are, currently, in short supply.

    The perfect motherboard, for me, would probably be a P67 micro-ATX design with the mandatory x8/x8 Crossfire support, one x1 and one x4 slot, front panel connector for USB 3, dual gigabit LAN and the base audio and SATA port options.


    Anyone? :)
  • geofelt - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    The only P67 based micro-ATX motherboard I have found to date is the
    Asus P8P67-M pro. (or evo?)

    Any others?
  • Rick83 - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    There's also a non-pro P8P67-M.

    Keep in mind though, that the over-clocking issue may not be as bad as pointed out. There are H67 boards being marketed for over-clocking ability and manuals showing how to adjust the multiplier for CPUs... I'm not yet convinced over-clocking will be disabled on H67.
  • smilingcrow - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    Major bummer as I was going to order a Gigabyte H67 board and an i5-2500K but am put off now. They seem to over-clock so well and with low power consumption that it seemed the perfect platform for me…
    I don’t mind paying the small premium for the K editions but being forced to use a P67 and lose the graphics and have difficulty finding a mATX P67 board seems crazy!

    I wonder if this limit is set in the chipset or it can be changed with a BIOS update?
  • DanNeely - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    Quick Sync only works if the IGP is in use (may be fixable via drivers later); for anyone who cares about video encoding performance that makes the IGP a major feature.
  • mariush - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    On the Dark Knight test...

    Looking at the Intel software encoding and the AMD encoding, it looks like the AMD is more washed out overall, which makes me think there's actually something related to colorspaces or color space conversion involved....

    Are you guys sure there's no PC/TV mixup there with the luminance or ATI using the color matrix for SD content on HD content or something like that?

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