Intel launched its newest line of processors on the 9th of January this year (2011) bringing with it a change of socket and the addition of a GPU on the same piece of silicon (or die) as the processor. Under the code name ‘Sandy Bridge’ they released i7 2600k, i5 2500k & 2300 as well as a full host of slightly tweaked versions of the ones above (ie) more or less power and the same with the L2 cache, as Rodney Reynolds would say “far too many technology’s to list here”. If you are interested in the complete list of Sandy bridge processors you can find them HERE.
The Good: These chips are more power efficient and you get more bang from them too. Compared with the same priced i7 950, you get a more power efficient better performing chip for the same price!!!
This article may seem very late to the party given I’m writing it 3 weeks after the release date and in tech circles where ‘first’ is everything it may seem very tardy. The reason I held off this long is that I wanted to get a more ‘hands on’ feel for the processor before forming an opinion. My real pet peeve is knee jerk reactions to new hardware from people of the Internet, I think it’s short sighted and unfair to the product. That being said lets get into it shall we? I have a real love hate relationship with this new line of processors. I want to like them and on paper they do hold up well to the previous family of Clarkdale/Bloomfield processors. So why the mixed feelings I hear no one in particular ask?
First up the GOOD,
The i7 2600K is way down on power usage sucking less power than the i7 950 which price wise is its nearest rival (from Intel) meaning great performance with less drain on the system. Intel’s two fastest Sandy Bridge-based chips the Core i7-2600K and Core i7-2600 sit at 164 W when ran through 3D Mark Vantage, so does the Core i5-2500K. Compare those figures to the Core 2 Quad Q9550, which averages 161 W. Are these 32 nm chips more efficient ??? The straight answer would be YES.
The i7 2600/2600K do brilliantly well in video encoding and file compression as well as gaming* beating out all but the very fastest Intel 970, 980 and the ridiculous 980X. Which I have to say is amazing! There is no point mentioning the AMD Phenom line of processors here, it has been shown in the past the Intel 900 range of chips beat out the AMD Phenom range in most if not all the benchmarks used to test processors so it goes without saying the new 2600’s would beat them too. These new processors are more power efficient and you get more bang from them too.
*using GeForce GTX 580 GFX card not on-die video chip
This is when during my research my jaw did fall open, the new i7 2600 can be purchased for the rather shocking price of £239.99 and the i7 2600K for £251.99. When compared to the i7 950 £239.99 or the obscene i7 970 £719,99 you really have to be impressed with the price of the new i7 2600’s. Just to clarify the i7 2600 was better or wiped the floor with the same priced i7 950, in conclusion you are getting a more power efficient better performing chip for the same price!!! It’s a very good deal indeed.
Next up the BAD,
Lack of Value:
There is some really weird things going on in the Intel HQ at the moment. Only last year they released a new socket 1156 and 1366. The new processors i7 2600, 2600K etc only run in an 1155 socket and Intel have not and will not offer an upgrade path to people who bought an i7 950 before January 2011. This might seem an unfair thing for me to expect from Intel but let me explain. If you bought an i7 950 you would also have to buy a compatible motherboard and guess who makes the chipsets on those boards????? Intel that’s who, all those motherboards run x58 chipsets so Intel makes money on the motherboard and the processor. That is business and I understand all that, my problem is that if I then want to upgrade from say an i5 650 to an i7 2600k I now have to replace my motherboard as well. Suddenly the £239.99 for the i7 2600 doesn’t look so nice when you have to add the cost of a new motherboard* to the equation.
*H67 Motherboards at an average price of £100
*P67 high end Motherboards at an average price of £150
Already out of date: Sandy Bridge processors are not compatible with Intel’s 5-series chipsets and do not support USB 3.0, they also only support DirectX 10.1. Ivy-Bridge is slated for release in Q4 2011 and it will use 22nm (to Sandy Bridge's 32nm) technology and a more powerful DirectX 11 GPU.
Who is its target audience?:
Intel are doing their marketing the way they always do with their new products, saying how hardcore and powerful this new generation of processors are, and aiming the advertisements at gamers first and foremost. But this is where I can’t make any sense of it. No PC gamer worth their salt would use onboard GFX so why market it at them? The only place I see the ‘Sandy Bridge’ being good and onboard GFX being useful is on laptops and tablet PCs.
Already out of Date:
Sandy Bridge processors are not compatible with Intel’s 5-series chipsets and do not support USB 3.0, they also only support DirectX 10.1. According to Intel “it wasn’t time to go for the newer DirectX 11 technology with Sandy Bridge”. Another BOMBSHELL to hit poor old Sandy Bridge is that Ivy-Bridge is slated to be release in Q4 2011 and it will use 22nm (to Sandy Bridge’s 32nm) technology and a more powerful DirectX 11 GPU. There are even rumors that it will support USB 3.0. Because of the above reasons I would find it hard to recommend the Sandy Bridge processor to anybody thinking of upgrading or buying a new PC.
I have to admit that I was impressed by Sandy Bridge’s performance. Existing Clarkdale and Bloomfield processors already offer strong performance compared to AMD’s Phenom lineup. Significant gains, clock-for-clock, compound in the face of notable frequency increases across the board (thanks to a mature 32 nm process), giving Sandy Bridge an even more commanding position. But I just can’t shake the fact that with the release of the 1155 socket it now means there are no less than three different processor sockets under the Core i7 brand: LGA1366, LGA1156 and the new LGA1155. I am someone who has been building PCs since the Intel 478 days, I’ve built AMD and Intel based PCs over the years and I would say I am more aware of new hardware and technologys than the average consumer and I have to say that at this point in time I find it way too confusing looking at Intel’s current line up.
McGriff – Follow McGriff on Twitter
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