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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  • Beenthere - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I'll stick with my AMD 965 BE as it delivers a lot of performance for the price and I don't get fleeced on mobo and CPU prices like with Intel stuff. Reply
  • geek4life!! - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Exactly what I have been waiting on, time to build my RIG again. Been without a PC for 1 year now and itching to build a new one.

    Game on baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Reply
  • Doormat - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    If QuickSync is only available to those using the integrated GPU, does that mean you cant use QS with a P67 board, since they don't support integrated graphics? If so, I'll end up having to buy a dedicated QS box (a micro-ATX board, a S or T series CPU seem to be up to that challenge). Also what if the box is headless (e.g. Windows Home Server)?

    Does the performance of QS have to do with the number of EUs? The QS testing was on a 12-EU CPU, does performance get cut in half on a 6-EU CPU (again, S or T series CPUs would be affected).

    No mention of Intel AVX functions. I suppose thats more of an architecture thing (which was covered separately), but no benchmarks (synthetic or otherwise) to demo the new feature.
    Reply
  • MeSh1 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Yeah I think this is the case or according the the blurb below you can connect a monitor to the IGP in order to use QS. Is this a design flaw? Seems like a messy workaround :(

    " you either have to use the integrated GPU alone or run a multimonitor setup with one monitor connected to Intel’s GPU in order to use Quick Sync."
    Reply
  • SandmanWN - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    The sad part is for all the great encoding you get, the playback sucks. Jacked up. Reply
  • Doormat - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I'm not that interested in playback on that device - its going to be streamed to my PS3, DLNA-enabled TVs, iPad/iPhone, etc. Considering this wont be supported as a hackintosh for a while, I might as well build a combo transcoding station and WHS box. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    How do you figure "playback sucks"? If you're using MPC-HC, it's currently broken, but that's an application issue not a problem with SNB in general. Reply
  • Absolution75 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Thank you so much for the VS benchmarks!! Programmers rejoice! Reply
  • Exodite - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I'm of two minds about that really.

    I had really set my mind on the 2500K as it offers unparalleled bang-for-buck and real-world testing have shown that Hyper-threading makes little difference in games.

    With the compile tests it's clear there's a distinct benefit to going with the 2600K for me though, which means this'll end up more expensive than I had planned! :)
    Reply
  • Lazlo Panaflex - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    FYI, the 1100T is missing from several of the gaming benchmarks..... Reply

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