Intel Sandy Bridge review

Price when reviewed

It’s worth remembering that these scores come from regular applications that are now a few years old, none of which were written to take advantage of AVX. Once developers update their code you can expect to see even more dramatic performance improvements.

The cherry on top is power consumption. Our Core i5-2500K system never topped 90W, even in the thick of our multitasking and 3D tests, with all four cores running at more than 4GHz. With no discrete graphics card, it was whisper-quiet too.

Core i7 performance

In light of these amazing results, we expected miracles from the top-of-the-range Core i7-2600K; but in fact the new i7 is little different to the Core i5-2500K. It uses the same socket and chipset, and simply runs 100MHz faster, with a larger on-chip cache and support for Hyper-Threading. Nice improvements, but not enough to magically transform performance.

Indeed, in our tests it offered only a small boost over the i5, scoring 2.65 at stock speeds and 3.16 with Turbo Boost overclocked to 4.5GHz. These are the highest scores we’ve ever seen, but they look like poor value when the Core i5-2500K gets so close for so much less.

The Core i7-2600K uses the same HD Graphics 3000 GPU as the Core i5 — a change from the previous generation, when i7 chips didn’t have any onboard graphics at all. The GPU is clocked faster than the i5 too, which lifted performance in our Low quality Crysis test to 46fps.

Intel Sandy Bridge

The future

Sandy Bridge is a very palpable hit. We haven’t yet been able to test every chip in the line-up, but if you don’t mind tweaking a few BIOS settings, the Core i5-2500K is the obvious star of the range.

If overclocking doesn’t appeal, any one of the new processors will still knock the socks off a comparable chip from the last generation. The regular i5-2500 is a solid 40% faster than our old favourite, the i5-750, and the lesser models won’t be far behind. In fact, after this launch it’s hard to see any future for the older LGA 1156 and 1366 platforms.

Currently, Sandy Bridge has no presence at the lightweight end of the market, with even the cheapest Core i3 approaching £100. And you can bet that AMD will rejig its prices so Intel’s mid-range chips find themselves head-to-head with older Phenom II X4 and X6 parts.

Towards the upper end of the range, however, there’s no technology on the market that can match the performance of the new Core i5 and i7 chips – in light of which they’re embarrassingly affordable. In short, Sandy Bridge destroys the old bang-per-buck curve, and redefines what we can expect from a mainstream desktop, or, we fully expect, a laptop. Intel has done it once again.


Cores (number of)2
L3 cache size (total)6MB

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score2.65

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