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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  • saikyan - Thursday, January 6, 2011 - link

    "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."

    I hate to sound like the resident Mac fanboy (I'm platform agnostic) but I want to point out:

    1. Apple sells by trim and display, they don't really make a big deal of the CPU (probably because they stick to low-end and midrange CPUs)

    2. They have been shipping multi-button mice for nearly six years now. Come on!
  • vol7ron - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    - gtx460 image quality definitely the worst
    - 6870 image quality next
    - quicksync/snb image quality are the best (marginally better than 6870); I did notice some color loss in the flowers behind the umbrella when I zoomed in on the quicksync picture, so I'd have to give SNB the title in terms of quality. QuickSync gets the title in terms of performance.
  • nitrousoxide - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

  • Burticus - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

    My last Intel cpu was a prescott 2.4ghz P4 OC'd to over 3ghz... back in 2004? My last 3 main system builds all AMD.... I was thinking about going to an X6 in the near future, now I guess maybe not. My price point is pretty much $200 for the cpu + motherboard so maybe I'll have to wait a couple months.

    Suddenly my 2 year old Phenom II seems very, very slow...
  • magnusr - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    I just received my 2600K. It only had the normal fan. No special heatsink/fan for the 2600K. The same heatsink as the rest....

    This is a fraud since I placed my decision to take 2600K instead of the 2500K based on the better heatsink and the cache.
  • mmcnally - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Same here.. Very disapointed as I would have purchased a better heatsink if I knew. I guess I'll just do the install with the standard crap HS and hold off on over-clocking until I get a better one.
  • swing848 - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Many of us are using older equipment. And, for those of us with limited funds it would have been nice if you would have added the Intel Q9650 and run all game benchmarks at 3.4GHz [ the speed of the 2600K], except for the default 3.6GHz speed of the X4 975BE, leave it there.

    I have a QX9650 that I purchased from eBay and it does 4GHz+ with ease, in a Gigabyte P35-DS3R motherboard, even with my ancient cooler [Thermalright XP-90] that I pulled from a socket 478 motherboard [$5 adapter].

    Note: I lapped the XP-90 with a slight convex shape to better use with un-lapped CPUs.

    In any event, a "quick and dirty" or simple overclock would have yielded at least some usable information. To save time, no need to try to get the maximum speed from all components.

    As long as the CPUs were already overclocked, you could run all benchmarks at those speeds, not just games. Many of us overclock to get more for our money.

    You included the ancient Q6600 at it's slow default speed - in some of the benchmarks. Why didn't you include it in all benchmarks?

    Your normal benchmark page does not include a full, or nearly full, list of games and CPUs, so, comparisons are difficult to find, example here

    Where does this leave those of us with older equipment that is still chugging along?
  • Kell_sw - Thursday, January 13, 2011 - link

    DRM inside the cpu? People is blind?. The sad thing, everybody is going to buy this.
  • Sweeo - Friday, January 14, 2011 - link

    I just bought a upgrade "kit" from an core 2 2.8 quad to i7 950 :(
    but I got 6 sata ports I noticed the new boards have 4+2
    will the more advanced boards have more ?
  • Ahumado - Sunday, January 16, 2011 - link

    I didn't see it discussed. Did I miss it?

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