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Intel Core i7-2600K (and friends) Sandy Bridge Processor Review

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged:

Retail Motherboards and Testing Configuration

As you might imagine, since motherboard vendors have been waiting on this CPU release for quite some time, there is no shortage of retail-ready solutions for your upcoming Sandy Bridge system build.  We got in boards from ASUS, MSI, ECS, Gigabyte, ASRock and more; unfortunately due to a sudden two-day shortening of our schedule we didn't get a chance to do any complete board reviews for you today but we'll have them as soon as we are back from CES. 

ASUS sent over a couple of boards, the first of which we have had hands on time with was the P8P67 Deluxe:

The P8P67 Deluxe offers a lot of great features including multiple USB 3.0 connections, a truly innovative UEFI BIOS implementation and a 16+2 phase digital power design. 

The MSI P67A-GD65 looks to be another great motherboard option for SNB processors:

The MSI P67A-GD65 offers SLI and CrossFire support as well as an updated version of their OC Genie feature that supplies single button press, nearly instant, automatic overclocking.  I have been very impressed with this feature on previous MSI motherboards and it looks like MSI is going to be able to carry it over to Sandy Bridge very well.

Even ECS is in the game with the P67H2-A motherboard:

The ECS offering actually includes a Lucid HYDRA chip on board for cross-vendor multi-GPU scaling - I will be very curious to see how it performs!

Zotac was one of two companies to send over a mini-ITX version of an H67 motherboard:

With integrated WiFi, a PCIe slot for discrete graphics and such a small stature, the Zotac H67-ITX will likely make a great HTPC build option. 

The Sandy Bridge Processors

From the looks of them, the new Sandy Bridge based processors are basically identical to the LGA1156 Lynnfield/Clarkdale CPUs.  The new socket is an LGA1155 - just enough to make sure you don't try to install SNB parts into a Lynnfield board or vice-versa. 

The 2nd Generation Intel Core processor family is built on the new 32nm process technology that Clarkdale CPUs were built on.  Unlike those processors though that included 32nm CPU and 45nm graphics and memory controller chips, Sandy Bridge is a single 32nm monolithic die.  The die size is 214 mm^2 and consists of 995M transistors - very nearly hitting the 1 billion mark!   



Core i7-2600K at idle
The Sandy Bridge processors are powerful but also power efficient: at idle the Core i7-2600K still only runs at 1.6 GHz.



Core i7-2600K with all cores loaded
With all the cores loaded under CineBench, the CPU scales up to as high as 3.5 GHz or so, just over the base rated clock speed of 3.4 GHz. 



Core i7-2600K with one thread load

Without any overclocking employed, the i7-2600K will still hit as high as 3.8 GHz when running single threaded applications though.  We'll demonstrate how far you can really push these processors, even with a multi-threaded workload, when we dive into the overclocking section.

Testing Configuration

Getting a grip on how Sandy Bridge performance compares to other processors out there is pretty straight forward: lots of testing with a focus on a couple of key areas.  On the following pages you'll see our smattering of CPU benchmarks including Sandra, media encoding and more but I will actually start with a detailed look at the integrated processor graphics performance of these new platforms.  Finally, we'll touch on overclocking and power consumption and round it all up with a page of conclusions and questions for future articles. 

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