Final Words

In terms of absolute CPU performance, Sandy Bridge doesn't actually move things forward. This isn't another ultra-high-end CPU launch, but rather a refresh for the performance mainstream and below. As one AnandTech editor put it, you get yesterday's performance at a much lower price point. Lynnfield took away a lot of the reason to buy an X58 system as it delivered most of the performance with much more affordable motherboards; Sandy Bridge all but puts the final nail in X58's coffin. Unless you're running a lot of heavily threaded applications, I would recommend a Core i7-2600K over even a Core i7-980X. While six cores are nice, you're better off pocketing the difference in cost and enjoying nearly the same performance across the board (if not better in many cases).

In all but the heaviest threaded applications, Sandy Bridge is the fastest chip on the block—and you get the performance at a fairly reasonable price. The Core i7-2600K is tempting at $317 but the Core i5-2500K is absolutely a steal at $216. You're getting nearly $999 worth of performance at roughly a quarter of the cost. Compared to a Core i5-750/760, you'll get an additional 10-50% performance across the board in existing applications, and all that from a ~25% increase in clock speed. A big portion of what Sandy Bridge delivers is due to architectural enhancements, the type of thing we've come to expect from an Intel tock. Starting with Conroe, repeating with Nehalem, and going strong once more with Sandy Bridge, Intel makes this all seem so very easy.

Despite all of the nastiness Intel introduced by locking/limiting most of the Sandy Bridge CPUs, if you typically spend around $200 on a new CPU then Sandy Bridge is likely a better overclocker than anything you've ever owned before it. The biggest loser in the overclock locks is the Core i3 which now ships completely locked. Thankfully AMD has taken care of the low-end segments very well over the past couple of years. All Intel is doing by enforcing clock locks for these lower end chips is sending potential customers AMD's way.

The Core i3-2100 is still a step forward, but not nearly as much of one as the 2500K. For the most part you're getting a 5-20% increase in performance (although we did notice some 30-40% gains), but you're giving up overclocking as an option. For multithreaded workloads you're better off with an Athlon II X4 645; however, for lightly threaded work or a general purpose PC the Core i3-2100 is likely faster.

If this were a normal CPU, I'd probably end here, but Sandy Bridge is no normal chip. The on-die GPU and Quick Sync are both noteworthy additions. Back in 2006 I wondered if Intel would be able to stick to its aggressive tick-tock cadence. Today there's no question of whether or not Intel can do it. The question now is whether Intel will be able to sustain a similarly aggressive ramp in GPU performance and feature set. Clarkdale/Arrandale were both nice, but they didn't do much to compete with low-end discrete GPUs. Intel's HD Graphics 3000 makes today's $40-$50 discrete GPUs redundant. The problem there is we've never been happy with $40-$50 discrete GPUs for anything but HTPC use. What I really want to see from Ivy Bridge and beyond is the ability to compete with $70 GPUs. Give us that level of performance and then I'll be happy.

The HD Graphics 2000 is not as impressive. It's generally faster than what we had with Clarkdale, but it's not exactly moving the industry forward. Intel should just do away with the 6 EU version, or at least give more desktop SKUs the 3000 GPU. The lack of DX11 is acceptable for SNB consumers but it's—again—not moving the industry forward. I believe Intel does want to take graphics seriously, but I need to see more going forward.

Game developers need to put forth some effort as well. Intel has clearly tried to fix some of its bad reputation this go around, so simply banning SNB graphics from games isn't helping anyone. Hopefully both sides will put in the requisite testing time to actually improve the situation.

Quick Sync is just awesome. It's simply the best way to get videos onto your smartphone or tablet. Not only do you get most if not all of the quality of a software based transcode, you get performance that's better than what high-end discrete GPUs are able to offer. If you do a lot of video transcoding onto portable devices, Sandy Bridge will be worth the upgrade for Quick Sync alone.

For everyone else, Sandy Bridge is easily a no brainer. Unless you already have a high-end Core i7, this is what you'll want to upgrade to.

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  • samrty22331 - Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - link

    visual studio 2010 professional not supported intel i5 2500k
    can you say
    how to install vs 2010 in this
  • Okurka - Saturday, August 13, 2011 - link

    The base clock of the HD 3000 GPU is 1100 MHz, not 850 MHz.
    That makes the 1550 MHz an overclock of 40,9 %, not 82,4 % as stated in the article.
  • khalnayak - Sunday, January 22, 2012 - link

    I am having Intel HD 3000 - Sandy Bridge in my system and i was willing to get the game called "oil rush" but then i have found weird response for the game here , so i just wanted to know is there any one who have tested the Intel HD 3000 - Sandy Bridge for oil rush, any help for this will be highly appreciated.
  • thr0nez101 - Sunday, January 29, 2012 - link

    I've got intel hd graphics 3000 and according to this forum/review it has a prob running dawn of war 2 on low graphics... i have it set to max graphics and i runs a dream... same with a lot of games i play on it...
  • oliverr - Saturday, February 11, 2012 - link

    guys, is it safe to overclock the Intel HD 3000 GPU ? I own a 2500K CPU. I can overclock the GPU to 1450mhz and it looks stable . But i dont know how to read the temperature from the GPU unit, so iam afraid i could burn my GPU/CPU .
  • cerberaspeed12 - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

    hi.first off all sorry for my english.I have a doubt .I have seen the dells lap top.they are identical but one have the Intel Core i3-2350M 2.3GHz ,the odher is Intel Core i5-2450M 2.5GHz , and the third have Intel Core i7 -2670M 2.4GH

    the prices is 600 $,670$ and 800 $,I am working some live multi channel audio production and .net teh programing.So for wich one i soud go.Thanks
  • indyaah - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    any suggestions how can i??
  • weirdo2989 - Sunday, March 4, 2012 - link

    Hi Techies,

    I recently got this processor. It is ultimate for gaming.
    However in my windows CPU meter gadget, i can see only 2 cores functioning. Stock comes with unlocked multiplier afaik. But here in my system, it shows only 2 cores. Is there any way to activate all the cores for better performance?

    Any suggestions/tips would be highly appreciated.


  • 0121birmingham - Saturday, May 12, 2012 - link

    Just to say i wrote a small post on this issue at
    It does not look like the problem has been fixed in the new z77 line up. DAM
  • milutzuk - Saturday, July 14, 2012 - link

    Beside VS2008 compiler performance I would like to see growing a database with some Java compiler performance, either under NetBeans or Eclipse. Thank you.

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