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Intel Sandy Bridge Core i5 2500K and Core i7 2600K review

by Tarinder Sandhu on 7 January 2011, 17:13 4.5

Tags: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qa3vi

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Meet the family

Intel released no fewer than 29 Sandy Bridge processors a few days ago, though none are yet available in the channel. The following table covers the eight main desktop SKUs. A further six - Core i3 2100T; Core i5 2390T; Core i5 2400S; Core i5 2500T; Core i5 2500S; Core i5 2600S - are designed as low-power chips.











 

Model number Cores /
Threads
GHz clock Turbo Boost Process Die size Trans. Cache Graphics Graphics speed Memory support Memory speed TDP Socket Approx. Price
Core i3 2100 2/4 3.10 N/A 32nm 149mm² 504m 512K L2
3MB L3
HD 2000 1,100MHz Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 65W LGA1155 $117
Core i3 2120 2/4 3.30 N/A 32nm 149mm² 504m 512K L2
3MB L3
HD 2000 1,100MHz Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 65W LGA1155 $138
Core i5 2300 4/4 2.80 3.10 32nm 216mm² 995m 1MB L2
6MB L3
HD 2000 1,100MHz Dual-channel DDR3-1333 95W LGA1155 $177
Core i5 2400 4/4 3.10 3.40 32nm 216mm² 995m 1MB L2
6MB L3
HD 2000 1,100MHz Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 95W LGA1155 $184
Core i5 2500 4/4 3.30 3.70 32nm 216mm² 995m 1MB L2
6MB L3
HD 2000 1,100MHz Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 95W LGA1155 $205
Core i5 2500K 4/4 3.30 3.70 32nm 216mm² 995m 1MB L2
6MB L3
HD 3000 1,100MHz Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 95W LGA1155 $216
Core i7 2600 4/8 3.40 3.80 32nm 216mm² 995m 1MB L2
8MB L3
HD 2000 1,350MHz Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 95W LGA1155 $294
Core i7 2600K 4/8 3.40 3.80 32nm 216mm² 995m 1MB L2
8MB L3
HD 3000 1,350MHz Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 95W LGA1155 $317
Core i5 661 2/4 3.33 3.60 32nm 81mm² 382m 512KB L2
4MB L3
HD 1000 900MHz Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 87W LGA1156 $196
Core i5 760 4/4 2.80 3.33 45nm 296mm² 774m 1MB L2
8MB L3
N/A NA Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 95W LGA1156 $206
Core i7 875K
4/8 2.93 3.60 45nm 296mm² 774m 1MB L2
8MB L3
N/A N/A Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 95W LGA1156 $342
Core i7 930 4/8 2.80 3.06 45nm 263mm² 731m 1MB L2
8MB L3
NA N/A Triple-channel DDR3-1,066 130W LGA1366 $294
Core i7 950 4/8 3.06 3.33 45nm 263mm² 731m 1MB L2
8MB L3
NA N/A Triple-channel

DDR3-1,066

130W LGA1366 $294
Core i7 980X 6/12 3.33 3.60 32nm 248mm² 1,170m 1.5MB L2
12MB L3
NA N/A Triple-channel DDR3-1,066 130W LGA1366 $885

Analysis

Intel has managed to pack an enormous number of transistors required for Sandy Bridge by going down to a 32nm process for all chips. We reckon that it would not have been economically palatable on the 45nm node. Indeed, the full-fat Sandy Bridge chip packs in almost a billion teeny-weeny transistors into a die that is smaller than a mid-range Core i5 760 from the 2010 line-up.

Remember how we described that Intel could split the Sandy Bridge architecture into many parts? Well, here's the proof.

Core i3 21xx

Desktop Core i3 2100-series chips are dual-core and have hyper-threading support. This means they can process four threads - just as current Intel Core i3/i5 600-series can. In keeping with tradition, Intel programs the CPU segment with a relatively high clockspeed, though it does without the Turbo Boost feature.

The two chips have 512KB of L2 cache and 3MB of LLC. Both use the Intel HD 2000 graphics, composed of six execution cores, and can dynamically increase the base 800MHz frequency to 1,100MHz when the situation demands it.

Not shown on the table, the 65W duo are bereft of vPro and the AES-NI speed-up technology found on higher models, though all Sandy Bridge chips have virtualisation technology built-in. Head beginning to whirl yet?

Core i5 2xxx

Moving on up, Core i5 status is attained by having four physical cores. The 2300, 2400, and 2500 chips, rated at 95W are equipped with 6MB LLC cache and differentiate on basis of clockspeed, which can be Turbo Boosted by up-to four 'bins.' The graphics portion is identical on all counts, running up to 1,100MHz when under load. Prices are remarkably similar for the trio, too.

Core i7 2600

Bringing the best out of Sandy Bridge is the Core i7 2600. It has four cores and eight threads as well as the fastest clockspeed and largest LLC of the lot, topping out at 8MB. Six-core HD 3000 Graphics remain, but they can be clocked up to 1,350MHz this time around.

K-series - the overclockers' friend

Then there's the two K-series processors. Being the leaders of their respective packs, Intel offers them in a multiplier-unlocked form, much like AMD's Black Edition CPUs. Designed for the enthusiast in mind, they don't attract much of a price premium over the regular chips. What's more, both ship with full-fat HD 3000 Graphics, meaning practically double the IGP power through the use of 12 execution units.

Phew, that's some line-up. It makes AMD's desktop proposition look positively staid in comparison. But Intel's new range does require some research from the consumer to really understand what they're purchasing. This caveat emptor philosophy extends to a few other Sandy Bridge peculiarities, as we'll discuss on the following page.