Update: Be sure to read our Sandy Bridge Architecture Exposed article for more details on the design behind Intel's next-generation microprocessor architecture.

The mainstream quad-core market has been neglected ever since we got Lynnfield in 2009. Both the high end and low end markets saw a move to 32nm, but if you wanted a mainstream quad-core desktop processor the best you could get was a 45nm Lynnfield from Intel. Even quad-core Xeons got the 32nm treatment.

That's all going to change starting next year. This time it's the masses that get the upgrade first. While Nehalem launched with expensive motherboards and expensive processors, the next tock in Intel's architecture cadence is aimed right at the middle of the market. This time, the ultra high end users will have to wait - if you want affordable quad-core, if you want the successor to Lynnfield, Sandy Bridge is it.

Sandy Bridge is the next major architecture from Intel. What Intel likes to call a tock. The first tock was Conroe, then Nehalem and now SB. In between were the ticks - Penryn, Westmere and after SB we'll have Ivy Bridge, a 22nm shrink of Sandy.

Did I mention we have one?

While Intel is still a few weeks away from releasing Sandy Bridge performance numbers at IDF, we managed to spend some time with a very healthy sample and run it through a few of our tests to get a sneak peak at what's coming in Q1 2011.

New Naming

The naming isn’t great. It’s an extension of what we have today. Intel is calling Sandy Bridge the 2nd generation Core i7, i5 and i3 processors. As a result, all of the model numbers have a 2 preceding them.

For example, today the fastest LGA-1156 processor is the Core i7 880. When Sandy Bridge launches early next year, the fastest LGA-1155 processor will be the Core i7 2600. The two indicates that it’s a 2nd generation Core i7, and the 600 is the model number.

Sandy Bridge CPU Comparison
  Base Frequency L3 Cache Cores/Threads Max Single Core Turbo Intel HD Graphics Frequency/Max Turbo Unlocked TDP
Intel Core i7 2600K 3.4GHz 8MB 4 / 8 3.8GHz 850 / 1350MHz Y 95W
Intel Core i7 2600 3.4GHz 8MB 4 / 8 3.8GHz 850 / 1350MHz N 95W
Intel Core i5 2500K 3.3GHz 6MB 4 / 4 3.7GHz 850 / 1100MHz Y 95W
Intel Core i5 2500 3.3GHz 6MB 4 / 4 3.7GHz 850 / 1100MHz N 95W
Intel Core i5 2400 3.1GHz 6MB 4 / 4 3.4GHz 850 / 1100MHz N 95W
Intel Core i3 2120 3.3GHz 3MB 2 / 4 N/A 850 / 1100MHz N 65W
Intel Core i3 2100 3.1GHz 3MB 2 / 4 N/A 850 / 1100MHz N 65W

The names can also have a letter after four digit model number. You’re already familiar with one: K denotes an unlocked SKU (similar to what we have today). There are two more: S and T. The S processors are performance optimized lifestyle SKUs, while the T are power optimized.

The S parts run at lower base frequencies than the non-S parts (e.g. a Core i7 2600 runs at 3.40GHz while a Core i7 2600S runs at 2.80GHz), however the max turbo frequency is the same for both (3.8GHz). GPU clocks remain the same but I’m not sure if they have the same number of execution units. All of the S parts run at 65W while the non-S parts are spec’d at 95W.

Sandy Bridge CPU Comparison
  Base Frequency L3 Cache Cores/Threads Max Single Core Turbo Intel HD Graphics Frequency/Max Turbo TDP
Intel Core i7 2600S 2.8GHz 8MB 4 / 8 3.8GHz 850 / 1100MHz 65W
Intel Core i5 2500S 2.7GHz 6MB 4 / 4 3.7GHz 850 / 1100MHz 65W
Intel Core i5 2500T 2.3GHz 6MB 4 / 4 3.3GHz 650 / 1250MHz 45W
Intel Core i5 2400S 2.5GHz 6MB 4 / 4 3.3GHz 850 / 1100MHz 65W
Intel Core i5 2390T 2.7GHz 3MB 2 / 4 3.5GHz 650 / 1100MHz 35W
Intel Core i3 2100T 2.5GHz 3MB 2 / 4 N/A 650 / 1100MHz 35W

The T parts run at even lower base frequencies and have lower max turbo frequencies. As a result, these parts have even lower TDPs (35W and 45W).

I suspect the S and T SKUs will be mostly used by OEMs to keep power down. Despite the confusion, I like the flexibility here. Presumably there will be a price premium for these lower wattage parts.

A New Architecture
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  • foundchild1 - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    "For example, today the fastest LGA-1156 processor is the Core i7 880. When Sandy Bridge launches early next year, the fastest LGA-1155 processor will be the Core i7 2600."

    Shouldn't the second one also read LGA-1156? Are they changing the pin count/socket for this 'tock'?
    Reply
  • foundchild1 - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Well, that's me being an idiot and not reading the whole article first... New socket indeed. Reply
  • medi01 - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    So intel has locked multtipliers because of some other evil companies, eh? To protect the consumers, right?

    What a shame... :(
    Reply
  • jfelano - Sunday, August 29, 2010 - link

    Did you even read the article???? Yes its s1155. Reply
  • wazzap123 - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    The story of how caches are going to work in the 8+ core world is getting exciting. I like the overview at the daily circuit that summarizes how Niagara 3, Tilera Gx-100, and BlueGene/P processors weigh in on the issue too
    http://www.dailycircuitry.com/2010/11/progress-in-...
    Reply
  • dendysutrisna - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    The Apple iMac 21.5inch is a computer machine which uses the power of Intel Core i5-2400. Look at these page: http://www.bestdealscomputers.net/desktops/new-app... Processors like that, thanks to its strength, could draw the attention of everyone, even computer vendors at the level Apple also has without a doubt to hook them. Reply
  • Grooveriding - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    It's hard to wade through all this data so quickly. That said, as far as overclocking, the new 2011 socket will be the successor to 1366 ?

    I hope with all these new overclocking controls there will still be that mainstay $300 CPU that can overclock to some extreme performance. Meaning a successor to the i7 920/930 that can deliver the amazing performance those can overclocked.

    I hope this is not the death knell for such a CPU and Intel is expecting us to fork over $1000 for that performance level.
    Reply
  • BSMonitor - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Good question, but judging by the road map, the Extreme and Performance segments are still Gulftown Processors. I think the 1366 stays for Gulftown. Reply
  • Casper42 - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    On the 2P Server side of things, I have been told there will be a Westmere v2 coming in January 2011.
    This is probably the same family that will produce the i7 990 and the other 1366 chips on the chart that don't exist yet. The Xeon 5600 and 970/980 are damn near identical aside from QPI Links.

    Being those are being released in Jan, I wouldn't expect to see a socket 2011 desktop part until basically a year from now.

    They will once again be a close relative to the 2P Server family. The socket for the 2P Servers will be Socket R and will be Quad Channel memory as well as supposedly having PCIe 3.0.
    Reply
  • bitzao - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Yeah but.... will it run Starcraft II ? (on medium) Reply

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