Intel Sandy Bridge for laptops review

Price when reviewed

With the market for desktop PCs shrinking every year, more and more people are abandoning their PCs in favour of laptops. It’s easy to see why: with Intel’s Core architecture cramming desktop levels of power into affordable portables, even a budget laptop is often all anyone will ever need. Now, with the advent of Intel’s latest microarchitecture, Sandy Bridge, its mobile Core processors promise to soar yet further into the performance stratosphere.

Sandy Bridge is set to take pride of place in everything from affordable budget notebooks to premium mobile workstations, and Intel’s gone back to the drawing board for the 15-strong range of Core-i3, i5 and i7 processors.

The first flush of models are built on a 32nm process, with Intel’s integrated HD graphics squeezed onto the same silicon die as the CPU, and support for DDR3 memory of up to 1600MHz. In addition, Intel’s Turbo Boost technology has reached its second generation, and a new instruction set, Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX), serves to accelerate repetitive operations such as those required by media conversion software.

There’s a baffling array of options too, with dual-core, four-threaded Core i3, i5 and i7 processors aimed at the mainstream audience, plus Performance and Extreme Edition models sporting quad-core, eight-thread architecture.

A quiet revolution

It’s perhaps fitting that our first sight of a Sandy Bridge laptop didn’t exactly bowl us over. Indeed, those expecting visual fireworks will be seriously disappointed. Acer’s Aspire 5750G is shod in an understated dark grey chassis and, were it not for the specification sticker ruining the surprise, we could have mistaken it for any mid-range 15.6in notebook.

Acer Aspire 5750G

Beneath that mild-mannered exterior, however, lies Intel’s Core i7-2630QM processor. Sat squarely in the upper echelons of Intel’s newly revamped line-up of Core i7 processors (see table for full details), the Q in the processor’s name denotes that the 2GHz i7-2630QM is one of the four-core, eight-thread models, and with a 45W TDP it’s a processor you can expect to see making its debut across many manufacturers’ desktop replacements and mobile workstations in the coming months.

While that base clock of 2GHz might not sound particularly quick, Intel’s Turbo Boost 2 technology is now capable of pushing clock speeds much higher than previously; up to a maximum of 2.9GHz in the case of the i7-2630QM. As ever, the maximum speed increase is reserved for single threaded applications, but Turbo Boost 2 now allows for the CPU speed to be increased while all four of the processor’s cores are working flat out.

Physical specifications

Dimensions385 x 254 x 38mm (WDH)
Travelling weight3.1kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Core i7-2630QM
RAM capacity4.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free0
SODIMM sockets total2

Screen and video

Screen size15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal1,366
Resolution screen vertical768
Resolution1366 x 768
Graphics chipsetNvidia Optimus (Intel HD 3000 graphics/Nvidia GeForce GT540M)
Graphics card RAM2.00GB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
HDMI outputs1
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0


Hard disk usable capacity596GB
Spindle speed5,400RPM
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Hard diskToshiba MK6465GSX
Optical disc technologyDVD writer
Optical driveSlimtype DVD A DS8A5SH
Battery capacity4,400mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0


Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a supportno
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapterno
Bluetooth supportyes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchno
Wireless key-combination switchyes
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)2
FireWire ports0
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks2
SD card readeryes
Memory Stick readeryes
MMC (multimedia card) readeryes
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readeryes
Pointing device typeTouchpad
Audio chipsetRealtek HD Audio
Speaker locationAbove keyboard
Hardware volume control?no
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating0.3mp
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use5hr 43min
Battery life, heavy use1hr 26min
Overall application benchmark score2.06
Office application benchmark score1.51
2D graphics application benchmark score2.33
Encoding application benchmark score1.81
Multitasking application benchmark score2.58
3D performance (crysis) low settings81fps
3D performance settingLow

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS familyWindows 7
Recovery methodRecovery partition
Software suppliedN/A

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