|Intel Core i7-2600K Sandy Bridge CPU|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Processors|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Monday, 03 January 2011|
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Sandy Bridge CPU Architecture
Sandy Bridge CPUs represent the "tock" on Intel's famous "tick-tock" product development cycle, wherein new architecture features are introduced with a "tock" and process refinement comes roughly a year later with the "tick". In the previous generation, the original Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 Nehalem processors were the "tock", and the Westmere processors were the "tick". Here's Intel's official chart:
Based on this chart, we'll see Ivy Bridge CPUs built on a 22nm process in about a year; this will doubtless bring additional clock speed and power consumption improvements. But what are the new features of the Sandy Bridge architecture? Internal changes aside, Intel touts these new features:
Sandy Bridge CPUs come in three varieties: there are versions for mobile (laptop) use, "lifestyle PC" use, and "desktop enthusiast" use. The P67 Express/Core i7-2600K platform I tested represents the high end of the "desktop enthusiast" line. Intel claims that overall performance improvements (presumably at similar clock speeds) are in the range of 30%. Note that this includes graphics performance improvements (which I was unable to test since the P67 Express-based motherboards I had do not support the Sandy Bridge integrated graphics), as well as improvements from programs specifically coded to use the new AVX instructions.
As an "enthusiast" platform, the P67 Express/Sandy Bridge combination suffers from a dearth of PCIe lanes. The P67 has the same 8 lanes as does the P55, but at least upgrades them to the full 2.0 (5Gb/s) specification from the P55's 1.0 (2.5Gb/s) spec. This will provide better performance for SuperSpeed USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s ports (see Benchmark Reviews' coverage of the ASUS P7H55D-M EVO motherboard for the difference this can make in USB 3.0 performance), as well as other PCIe devices you might put in your system. Still, combined with the sixteen PCIe lanes on a Sandy Bridge CPU, that's only 24 lanes total, which pales in comparison to the 40 lanes available on an X58 system or the 42 on an AMD 890FX system. Enthusiasts should think carefully about their current and future system configurations and determine if the available PCIe lanes on a P67 system will be sufficient.