Intel’s Sandy Bridge Microarchitecture Debuts: Core i5 2500Okay and Core i7 2600Okay CPUs Reviewed

Enter the 32 nm "Sandy Bridge" architecture that marks the launch of 2nd generation Intel Core processors. Sandy Bridge is designed as a two-chip platform consisting of a processor and a Platform Controller Hub (PCH). It contains an integrated display engine, processor graphics and an integrated memory controller. With Sandy Bridge we not only get new processors, but a completely new platform, which is secured by new chipsets (P67, H67, H61) with the new LGA1155 socket.

After numerous rumors and even formal announcements throughout 2010, we all knew that Intel was launching its next-generation CPUs on time for CES 2011, which meant it was scheduled for the first week of the new year. However, before we delve deeper into the details and performance of Sandy Bridge, let's go back to 2006, the year when Intel switched from Pentium branding to its flagship desktop CPUs and turned to the "core" processors.

The Core series started with the Core 2 Duo, which was manufactured using the 65 nm process. The Core 2 Duo E6700 devastated everything that had been before and made the high-end processors Pentium 4 and Pentium D pokey look like, while the Athlon 64 series, which at that time outperformed the best offers from Intel, also lagged far behind was left In fact, it took several years for AMD to recover and show us something that is really controversial. The Phenom II X4 series was only introduced in early 2009.

The introduction of the core architecture set the pace for the coming years, with an almost flawless execution on Intel's side and its "tick-tock" strategy. When AMD was able to claim its number against Core 2 Duo processors, Intel was ready to launch the Core 2 Quad family. Some of the early models in this area were expensive because AMD targeted the budget and mainstream sectors to attract consumers.

Later came Nehalem, the predecessor of today's Sandy Bridge. The first 45nm "Bloomfield" processors from the infamous Core i7 series made the Phenom II X4 light, but with prices starting at $ 284 per chip, the cheaper AMD quad-core processors were still a viable alternative.

Needless to say, AMD has traveled through rough seas in the past few years and things would unfortunately be a lot harder for them. In late 2009, the Core i5 series made its debut with a single model called 750, which quickly became the first choice in the mainstream. At just $ 200, it offered Core i7-like performance, but on a cheaper platform. There was no Phenom II X4 model to touch at this price, and as a result, all AMD CPUs had to sell below that threshold, making them incredibly good value. The current Phenom II X4 flagship, the 970 Black Edition, costs only $ 185.

The 32 nm Intel "Clarkdale" CPUs, better known as the Core i5 6xx and Core i3 5xx, are currently competing against this AMD series and its smaller and more cost-conscious X3 and X2 siblings. These relatively new processors had some new features, the most important of which was shrinking and the integrated HD graphics engine.

Which brings us to this day. Sandy Bridge's debut will result in the replacement of almost the entire Intel desktop CPU range and an important segment of its mobile line.

A total of 14 new desktop CPUs for the Core i7, i5 and i3 series as well as 15 mobile processors and several other supporting chipsets are being launched today. Although we will focus on the desktop side in this review, there is still much to be discussed. Before we look at performance benchmarks, we will detail the inner workings of the Sandy Bridge architecture and its differences from its predecessors. We also pay particular attention to the improved integrated Turbo Boost graphics logic and the new 6 series chipsets. Continue reading!

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