ConclusionWith these new Sandy Bridge Core i7s and Core i5s, Intel has given us some quad cores that not only give higher performance but also consume less energy.
Of course, it’s the combination of the new Sandy Bridge architecture, more efficient at the same clock than Nehalem while offering more options at higher clocks, with the 32nm engraving, that Intel is alone in mastering among x86 CPU manufacturers, that gives Sandy Bridge its edge.
Already confined to a niche market because of their prohibitive pricing, the LGA 1366 six cores, lose a good deal of their attraction with this release. Of course, when they’re used at their full potential they’re still the fastest CPUs, but the Core i7-2600 isn’t far off and costs a good deal less.
The Phenom II X6s are also taking quite a hit with this new Intel range, so much so that the Phenom II X6 1100T, which spearheads the AMD range, is on average only on a par with the i5-2300, which is the smallest of the Sandy Bridge quad cores! It does outdo the i5-2500 however in four cases out of twelve, but is never up on the i7-2600K, at the same time as having a lower margin for overclocking and consuming more energy.
Intel has moreover taken the opportunity offered by Sandy Bridge to extend its strategy of integration of a graphics core within its CPUs. The graphics is now integrated onto the same die as the CPU and the new HD Graphics offers performance levels of up to twice the previous generation and is now, in its fastest version, on a par with a Radeon HD 5450 type graphics card. This is of course insufficient for gaming, but means you can do without a GPU in some other cases, including for an HTPC.
Intel’s extreme segmentation is however regrettable and leads to some incoherencies, like the fact that HD Graphics 3000 is only included for K models, which are the most expensive, while the H67 platform doesn’t even allow overclocking. However good it may be, an IGP is still an IGP and wanting to buy the “best” version at a high price doesn’t make much sense.
There are two other drawbacks when it comes to these impressive new processors. Firstly, having to move over to socket LGA 1155, and therefore ending the nevertheless fairly recent LGA 1156’s life, doesn’t do much for the idea of the evolution of a platform, something we hold close to our hearts. Let’s hope that this represents another mistake in the Intel roadmap...
Intel’s lockdown when it comes to the Sandy Bridge overclocking margins is also bad news. Sure, Intel isn’t abusing this just yet and is leaving a small amount of room for manoeuvre of 500 MHz in comparison to the base clock on standard models and pricing the unblocked K models at a reasonable level, but there’s no guarantee this situation will last.
These points don’t however alter the excellence of these new Core i7s and Core i5s, which though not perfect, offer, with absolutely no doubt, the best price / performance ratio of all mid and high range processors out there.
So dear Bulldozer, Sandy Bridge is well positioned to take on all comers!