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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  • iwodo - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    1. Transcoding @ 100fps is not uber fast. x264 ultrafast setting is even faster then that. So i hope there are further improvement or potentials in the Quick Sync that we haven't yet discovered.

    2. OpenCL - No mention of OpenCL? At all?

    3. I would think Intel GD has done very well this time around. And there are possibly 20 - 30% more performance to squeeze out given how Intel Gfx Drivers tend to be VERY POOR.
  • cactusdog - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the excellent run down of Sandy Bridge. As i have a x58 system i'm going to skip it and see what happens in Q4 . X58 has been a good platform and lasted longer than most others in recent years.
  • xxxxxl - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    I've thought it over...and i don't believe that H67 only support GPU overclocking.
    Like what others said, buy a "K" cpu to get HD3000 graphic and cannot overclock...and on the other side, those with P67 buy unlocked "K" CPU get HD3000 but cannot use...then what's the point of making HD3000 graphics?
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - link

    As they pointed out, with the Z series motherboard you can have both. That said, it does seem stupid that Intel would launch with those official guidelines, and in these comments others are saying some H67 motherboards are allowing the CPU multiplier to be changed.
  • rs2 - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    As tempting is this chip looks, my 3.8 GHz Core 2 Quad is still more CPU than I can really use most of the time. I wonder if we're reaching the point where improved compute performance is not really necessary for mainstream and even most enthusiast users.

    In any case, the upcoming 6-core/12-thread variant sounds interesting. Maybe I'll upgrade to that if Intel doesn't assign it to the $999 price point.
  • romanovskis - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    same here. For gaming or multimedia use, core2quad (mine at 4GHz) is still enough, and probably will be enough for 1-2 years. Best value/money is still in GPU upgrades.
  • iwodo - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    Beat Value / Money is SSD...
  • cgeorgescu - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    Best Value/Money is Beer, everybody knows that. Not 6-core but 6-pack.
  • karlostomy - Thursday, January 6, 2011 - link

    WIN ^^^
  • agr8man - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    a great review from you guys, and imo, the i5 2500k is really a steal.

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