|Intel Core i7-2600K Sandy Bridge CPU|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Processors|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Sunday, 02 January 2011|
Page 14 of 15
Sandy Bridge Final Thoughts
The Sandy Bridge architecture is the future for Intel, and we can expect to see similar changes wrought to the X58 replacement LGA2011-based systems start to appear later this year. Whether that means integrated graphics cores for the high end or not (hopefully not), the 32nm process and instruction improvements are worth looking forward to.
Although the P67/Sandy Bridge combination doesn't compete directly with the X58/Nehalem platform, it's interesting to see how the performance compares to a similarly-priced Socket 1366 processor, the Core i7-950:
On the average, on these benchmarks, the stock-clocked Intel Core i7-2600K is 54% faster than the Core i7-950. Eliminating the AES result from the mix results in an average improvement of 20%. As you can see from the chart, the differences are all over the place, with the relative performance of these processors varying wildly depending on the test used. The 2600K's biggest wins (other than the AES score) are in CINEBENCH, SPECviewperf, and video transcoding, and the performance delta will doubtless increase as programs that use the new vector instructions become available. Intel has made media transcoding performance a major design goal of the Sandy Bridge architecture, and this makes sense given the preponderance of digital audio, photo, and video devices in the consumer market these days.
The Core i7-950 processor is near the top of Intel's Socket 1366 line; the next step up, the 960, brings only a trivial 200Mhz clock speed increase accompanied by a price of $562. As I mentioned, in some of the tests the Core i7-2600K at stock speeds even beat the scores of the $999 Core i7-980X Extreme Edition. The 32nm fabrication process brings with it excellent overclocking abilities, as well as much lower processor temperatures: at am ambient temperature of 24 degrees Celcius, the core temperature of the overclocked, overvolted, and under-load 2600K never exceeded 74 degrees Celcius, much lower than you'd see when overclocking a Nehalem processor like the 950.
OK, so it's fast and it's cool. Then why am I somewhat disappointed in the Cougar Point/Sandy Bridge platform? Because of the way Intel has locked out overclocking on all but the high end: unless you've a P67 Express-based motherboard and a "K"-series Sandy Bridge CPU, you're not going to be able to get much if any extra performance out of your system. Restricting overclocking to only the highest-end parts may serve Intel in that it prevents lower-end parts from stealing sales from the high end, but it's at the expense of the consumer. After all, the whole point behind overclocking is to wring extra performance from the lower-end, lower-cost parts.
Because of this artificial limitation, the more versatile overclocking options and the ability to grow into triple- or quad-CrossFireX systems will keep the AMD 890FX platform competitive in the mid-range market. It will be interesting to see how AMD's upcoming "Fusion" systems compare with Sandy Bridge.