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
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • aviat72 - Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - link

    Though SB will be great for some applications, there are still rough edges in terms of the overall platform. I think it will be best to wait for SNB-E or at least the Z68. SNB-E seems to be the best future-proofing bet.

    I also wonder how a part rated for 95W TDP was drawing 111W in the 4.4GHz OC (the Power Consumption Page). SB's power budget controller must be really smart to allow the higher performance without throttling down, assuming your cooling system can manage the thermals.
  • marraco - Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - link

    I wish to know more about this Sandy Bridge "feature":
  • PeterO - Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - link

    Anand, Thanks for the great schooling and deep test results -- something surely representing an enormous amount of time to write, produce, and massage within Intel's bumped-forward official announcement date.

    Here's a crazy work-around question:

    Can I have my Quick Synch cake and eat my Single-monitor-with-Discrete-Graphics-card too if I, say:

    1). set my discrete card output to mirror Sandy Bridge's IGP display output;

    2). and, (should something exist), add some kind of signal loopback adapter to the IGP port to spoof the presence of a monitor? A null modem, of sorts?

    -- I have absolutely no mobo/video signaling background, so my idea may be laugh in my face funny to anybody who does but I figure it's worth a post, if only for your entertainment. :)
  • Hrel - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    It makes me SO angry when Intel does stupid shit like disable HT on most of their CPU's even though the damn CPU already has it on it, they already paid for. It literally wouldn't cost them ANYTHING to turn HT on those CPU's yet the greedy bastards don't do it.
  • Moizy - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    The HD Graphics 3000 performance is pretty impressive, but won't be utilized by most. Most who utilize Intel desktop graphics will be using the HD Graphics 2000, which is okay, but I ran back to the AMD Brazos performance review to get some comparisons.

    In Modern Warfare 2, at 1024 x 768, the new Intel HD Graphics 2000 in the Core i3 2100 barely bests the E-350. Hmm--that's when it's coupled with a full-powered, hyper-threaded desktop compute core that would run circles around the compute side of the Brazos E-350, an 18w, ultra-thin chip.

    This either makes Intel's graphics less impressive, or AMD's more impressive. For me, I'm more impressed with the graphics power in the 18w Brazos chip, and I'm very excited by what mainstream Llano desktop chips (65w - 95w) will bring, graphics-wise. Should be the perfect HTPC solution, all on the CPU (ahem, APU, I mean).

    I'm very impressed with Intel's video transcoding, however. Makes CUDA seem...less impressive, like a bunch of whoop-la. Scary what Intel can do when it decides that it cares about doing it.
  • andywuwei - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    not sure if anybody else noticed. CPU temp of the i5@3.2GHz is ~140 degrees. any idea why it is so high?
  • SantaAna12 - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    Did I miss the part where you tell of about the DRM built into this chip?
  • Cb422 - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    When will Sandy Bridge be available on Newegg or Amazon for me to purchase?
  • DesktopMan - Thursday, January 6, 2011 - link

    Very disappointed in the lack of vt-d and txt on k-variants. They are after all the high end products. I also find the fact that only the k-variants having the faster GPU very peculiar, as those are the CPUs most likely to be paired with a discrete GPU.
  • RagingDragon - Thursday, January 6, 2011 - link

    Agreed. I find the exclusion of VT-d particularly irritating: many of the overclockers and enthusiasts to whom the K chips are marketed also use virtualization. Though I don't expect many enthusiasts, if any, to miss TXT (it's more for locked down corporate systems, media appliances, game consoles, etc.).

    With the Z68 chipset coming in the indeterminate near future, the faster GPU on K chips would have made sense if the K chips came with every other feature enabled (i.e. if they were the "do eveything chips").

    Also, I'd like to have the Sandy Bridge video encode/decode features separate from the GPU functionality - i.e. I'd like to choose between Intel and Nvidia/AMD video decode/encode when using a discrete GPU.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now