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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  • auhgnist - Monday, January 17, 2011 - link

    For example, between i3-2100 and i7-2600?
  • timminata - Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - link

    I was wondering, does the integrated GPU provide any benefit if you're using it with a dedicated graphics card anyway (GTX470) or would it just be idle?
  • James5mith - Friday, January 21, 2011 - link

    Just thought I would comment with my experience. I am unable to get bluray playback, or even CableCard TV playback with the Intel integrated graphics on my new I5-2500K w/ Asus Motherboard. Why you ask? The same problem Intel has always had, it doesn't handle the EDID's correctly when there is a receiver in the path between it and the display.

    To be fair, I have an older Westinghouse Monitor, and an Onkyo TX-SR606. But the fact that all I had to do was reinstall my HD5450 (which I wanted to get rid of when I did the update to SandyBridge) and all my problems were gone kind of points to the fact that Intel still hasn't gotten it right when it comes to EDID's, HDCP handshakes, etc.

    So sad too, because otherwise I love the upgraded platform for my HTPC. Just wish I didn't have to add-in the discrete graphics.
  • palenholik - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    As i could understand from article, you have used just this one software for all these testings. And I understand why. Is it enough to conclude that CUDA causes bad or low picture quality.

    I am very interested and do researches over H.264 and x264 encoding and decoding performance, especially over GPU. I have tested Xilisoft Video Converter 6, that supports CUDA, and i didn't problems with low quality picture when using CUDA. I did these test on nVidia 8600 GT and for TV station that i work for. I was researching for solution to compress video for sending over internet with low or no quality loss.

    So, could it be that Arcsoft Media Converter co-ops bad with CUDA technology?

    And must notice here how well AMD Phenom II x6 performs well comparable to nVidia GTX 460. This means that one could buy MB with integrated graphics and AMD Phenom II x6 and have very good encoding performances in terms of speed and quality. Though, Intel is winner here no doubt, but jumping from sck. to sck. and total platform changing troubles me.

    Nice and very useful article.
  • ellarpc - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    I'm curious why bad company 2 gets left out of Anand's CPU benchmarks. It seems to be a CPU dependent game. When I play it all four cores are nearly maxed out while my GPU barely reaches 60% usage. Where most other games seem to be the opposite.
  • Kidster3001 - Friday, January 28, 2011 - link

    Nice article. It cleared up much about the new chips I had questions on.

    A suggestion. I have worked in the chip making business. Perhaps you could run an article on how bin-splits and features are affected by yields and defects. Many here seem to believe that all features work on all chips (but the company chooses to disable them) when that is not true. Some features, such as virtualization, are excluded from SKU's for a business reason. These are indeed disabled by the manufacturer inside certain chips (they usually use chips where that feature is defective anyway, but can disable other chips if the market is large enough to sell more). Other features, such as less cache or lower speeds are missing from some SKU's because those chips have a defect which causes that feature to not work or not to run as fast in those chips. Rather than throwing those chips away, companies can sell them at a cheaper price. i.e. Celeron -> 1/2 the cache in the chip doesn't work right so it's disabled.

    It works both ways though. Some of the low end chips must come from better chips that have been down-binned, otherwise there wouldn't be enough low-end chips to go around.
  • katleo123 - Tuesday, February 1, 2011 - link

    It is not expected to compete Core i7 processors to take its place.
    Sandy bridge uses fixed function processing to produce better graphics using the same power consumption as Core i series.
  • jmascarenhas - Friday, February 4, 2011 - link

    Problem is we need to choose between using integrated GPU where we have to choose a H67 board or do some over clocking with a P67. I wonder why we have to make this option... this just means that if we dont do gaming and the 3000 is fine we have to go for the H67 and therefore cant OC the processor.....
  • jmascarenhas - Monday, February 7, 2011 - link

    and what about those who want to OC and dont need a dedicated Graphic board??? I understand Intel wanting to get money out of early adopters, but dont count on me.
  • fackamato - Sunday, February 13, 2011 - link

    Get the K version anyway? The internal GPU gets disabled when you use an external GPU AFAIK.

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