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

  • dansus - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    Looking at the results of Quick Sync transcoding, the results are very interesting.

    But which h264 encoder is ArcSoft using, im guessing its Mainconcept, would like to compare QS with x264 to be sure of the results.

    In future, be nice to see the original frame to compare with too. Without the original, comparing just the encoded frames means little.
  • 7eventh - Sunday, February 20, 2011 - link

    Looking at (using the actual Cinebench 11.5) the 2600K is not THAT glorious at rendring-speed ... Why did you use Cinebench 10?
  • pshen7 - Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - link

    Who in the world named it Sandy Bridge? And Cougar Point is no better. They need a better marketing department. Seriously.
    Peter Shen,
  • zzzxtreme - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    does that mean I can't install windows XP/DOS on UEFI motherboards?
  • dwade123 - Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - link

    Intel i3 2100 is so underrated. It beats AMD's fastest's 6 core and older i7 Quadcores in many games and is only a little slower in other areas.
  • Wouggie - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    With an even improved i7990 Extreme now out, with a base speed of 3.46 GHz, which would be the better choice, considering I am going to using a dedicated graphics card Nvidia Quadro 4000.

    Also. what do you see on the horizon for three channel motherboards with more than 2 SATA lll 6 Gb/s connectors?
  • georgevt - Sunday, March 27, 2011 - link

    The benchmarks against the AMD processors are useless. All the compare is core-to-core performance (4 core to 4 core). You should be comparing is comparably priced processors/systems. For example, the 6-core AMD 1090T costs a hundred dollars less than the i7 2600 at, yet your benchmarks fail to provide any comparative benchmarks. It's quite possible that for some applications, that the 6-core AMD may perform better than the more expensive i4-core 7 processors in your benchmarks.
  • scurrier - Friday, April 1, 2011 - link

    Anand says, "frequency domain (how often pixels of a certain color appear)," but this definition of the frequency domain is incorrect. Frequency domain in the case of video is a 2 dimensional discrete cosine transform of the frame. It is not a count of pixels like a histogram (binning) or anything.
  • aka_Warlock - Saturday, April 30, 2011 - link

    Would be nice to see som test of how much of a performance difference lacking VT-d has on th CPU?
  • AbdurRauf - Monday, May 2, 2011 - link

    Does the QuickSync handle uprezing or only transcoding? Have you looked at the new WinFast HPVC1111 SpursEnginex4 and compared it to Quicksync, Cuda and Stream encoding and uprezing?

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now