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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  • RMSe17 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Time for an upgrade :) Reply
  • marc1000 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I decided to jump the first core-i lineup, and sitck to an old core2duo for some more time... now seems the wait was worth it!

    I just hope the prices outside US/Europe will be reasonable..

    thanks Anand,
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I think there are many of us that had the same idea. Unless needing to upgrade due to malfunction or new laptop purchase, holding C2D til past the i-Series was the best move to make; whereas buying into C2D asap was the best move at the time.

    Still going to wait for prices to fall and more USB3 adoption. Expected new purchase: mid-2011-mid 2012
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    by "i-Series" it should have said "1st gen. i-Series" Reply
  • CptTripps - Tuesday, January 04, 2011 - link

    Ya know I usually do as you are but was an early adopter of the i7 920. Looking now it seems I made the right choice. I have had 2 years of kickassery and my processor still holds up rather well in this article. Reply
  • hogey74 - Thursday, January 06, 2011 - link

    Me too! I've got an e8400 running at 3.9 with almost zero OC know-how and its done me well. I might snap up an i7 if they and their mobos get cheap when sandy bridge has been out a few months... but may well skip that generation all together. Reply
  • Einy0 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Holy crapola AMD really needs Bulldozer now. Even in heavily threaded video encoding the 2600K at $300 is blowing the 1100T x6 out of the water. This is the the Core 2 Duo vs. A64 X2 all over again. Will Bulldozer be another Phenom, a day late and a dollar short? TLB bug anyone? As a PC enthusiast I really want to see competition to keep prices in check. If I had to upgrade today, I can't see how I could turn down the 2600K... Reply
  • medi01 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Did you add mobo price into equation?

    I don't get all the excitement, really. If anything, Intel's anti-overclocking moves
    Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Yeah, new Intel motherboard models are never cheap. I don't understand why the price remains so high when more an more functionality is moving to the CPU. The other killer is that you need a new board for every Intel CPU update.

    Lastly, it's hard to throw the "buy now" tag on it with AMD's new architecture over the horizon. Sure, AMD has a tough act to follow, but it's still an unknown that I think is worth waiting for (if it's a dog, you can still buy Intel). Keep in mind that Bulldozer will have a pretty strong IGP, one that may make decent IGP gaming a reality. It will become a matter of how powerful the x86 portion of the Bulldozer is, and they are trying a considerably different approach. Considering the amount of money you'll be paying, you might as well see how AMD shakes out. I guess it just depends on if what you have today can get you by just a little longer.
    Reply
  • dertechie - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    You're conflating Bulldozer and Llano there. Bulldozer is the new architecture, coming to the desktop as an 8-core throughput monster. Llano is the first desktop APU, cramming 4 32nm K10.5 cores and a Redwood class GPU onto the die. The next generation of desktop APUs will be using Bulldozer cores. Reply

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