Intel Core i7-2600K and Core i5-2500K - Sandy Bridge processors reviewed
The most awaited processor line-up of this year is finally out.
Last time we saw so much hype around an Intel processor was when the six-core performance powerhouse Gulftown- Intel Core i7-980X was launched. Gulftown is still the fastest desktop processor on the planet, despite AMD coming out with its Thuban series of hex-core processors.
Sandy Bridge was announced in September 2010 at Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco and managed to vow most of us with its plethora of features including a graphics processor on the same die as the cores. Sandy Bridge being a new microarchitecture follows the 'tock' in Intel's 'tick-tock' cycle of shrinking process and new microarchitechture model.
Sandy Bridge is based on Intel's high speed 32-nm fabrication process and is the second generation of the Core i3/i5/i7 processors. Naming convention will be similar to the Core i3/i5/i7 series processors except that for Sandy Bridge based processors, the prefix 2 (indicating second generation) will be followed by the SKU. For instance, the two processors that we will see in the following pages are Intel Core i7-2600K and Intel Core i5- 2500K. Suffixes like K, S, T and M will be seen in some processor based on their purpose. For instance K indicates processor with unlocked cores, M indicates mobile processors for notebooks and so on.
This line of processors will need a completely new socket – LGA 1155. These processors are not backward compatible on the earlier LGA 1156 sockets even though the size of the socket is the same. However, you can still use the cooler on your LGA 1156 socket on the new motherboards. At present, there are two chipsets namely Intel P67 and Intel H67 on which majority of the motherboards are based. Let’s have a look at the processors on offer. We will only be looking at desktop processors for now and talking about Core i7-2600K and Core i5-2500K processors in the test.
This line up contains processors meant for the enthusiasts, with the i7-2600K and i5-2500K coming with unlocked multipliers.
This is the lower end models. Note that Core i3 processors support hyper threading but not Turbo Boost.
Finally we have the low power, entry level line of Sandy Bridge processors meant for the HTPC crowd and for users who want a comparatively lower power system.
We got two Sandy Bridge processors in our Test Centre namely Intel Core i7-2600K and Intel Core i5-2500K. So before we get to the benchmarks, I would like to give you a brief overview of the new features that are present in this new microarchitecture.
The New Microarchitecture
As seen in the diagram above, Sandy Bridge microarchitechture is all about integration. What was formerly seen on North Bridge chipsets in Intel motherboards, has all come on the processor die itself. Even the integrated graphics, which were found inside the Clarkdale processor but on a different die from the core die, have moved in alongside the Sandy Bridge processor cores. The modular arrangement comprises of five main sections namely the quad cores, processor graphics, System Agent (which is basically a North Bridge with a new name as it contains PCI Express, DDR, power controllers and the DMI interface) and the shared L3 cache also known as the Last Level Cache (LLC). Due to closer integration, the base clock frequency has come down from 133MHz to 100MHz, and this frequency clock is used for all the internal components.
All the Core i7 processors will feature both Hyper threading as well as Turbo Boost whereas Core i5 line will have only Turbo Boost and finally Core i3 processors will have only Hyper threading.
In short :
Core i7 – 4 Cores / 8 Threads with Turbo Boost – 4C/8T w TB
Core i5 – 4C / 4T w TB
Core i3 – 2C / 4T w/o TB
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