Intel Sandy Bridge for laptops review

£680
Price when reviewed

With every CPU core pegged at 100%, the processor demonstrated one of its other new tricks: for about a minute, Turbo Boost 2 allows all four CPU cores to stretch up to 2.6GHz, long enough to get applications up and running, before settling back to a more comfortable 2.3GHz for long-term usage. And Intel’s Turbo Boost 2 technology does its bit for battery life too: while running on battery power, it reins in the CPU’s capabilities and keeps it running at its default speed of 2GHz.

It’s the perfect compromise, and makes for a system which, subjectively at least, feels lightning quick. Load the Core i7 with the kind of multi-tasking which would see lesser machines crumble, and it soldiers on, the jet of hot air from the exhaust the only clue to all the work taking place behind the scenes.

The numbers game

Tasked with our benchmarks, Intel’s latest architecture proved its might. With an overall score of 2.06, the i7-2630QM effortlessly powers past the fastest mobile workstations we’ve ever seen. Breaking down the benchmark score to its individual components proves even more impressive: compared to a laptop equipped with one of Intel’s previous high-end CPUs, the 2.66GHz Core i7-620M, the newer generation shows its predecessors a clean set of heels.

In our 2D graphics test, the i7-2630QM is 21% faster, in our encoding test it’s 8% faster, and in the multitasking section it’s 21% faster. And that, don’t forget, is with a relatively slow 5,400rpm HDD as the system disk – the rival systems in the graph opposite have either 7,200rpm drives or twin SSDs and still can’t keep up.

Making the same comparison between those systems with Maxon’s CineBench 11.5 3D rendering benchmark only widens the divide. Running the single-core portion of the benchmark gives a good idea of each system’s single-threaded ability, with the i7-2630QM scoring 1.16 to the i7-620M’s 1.04. When you consider the i7-620M is capable of Turbo Boosting to 3.33GHz, and the i7-2630QM to just 2.9GHz, the efficiency and extra bandwidth of the new architecture clearly puts it at an advantage.

Looking good

Intel’s HD graphics have taken a turn for the better too. The graphics subsystem still supports Shader Model 4, but adds DirectX 10.1 and OpenGL 3 support for good measure. Technically, the graphics core shares the same twelve execution units as the previous generation, but while the default clock speeds are only marginally higher, even the lowliest models are now capable of boosting up to 1.1GHz.

Physical specifications

Dimensions 385 x 254 x 38mm (WDH)
Weight 2.510kg
Travelling weight 3.1kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-2630QM
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Nvidia Optimus (Intel HD 3000 graphics/Nvidia GeForce GT540M)
Graphics card RAM 2.00GB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 640GB
Hard disk usable capacity 596GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Toshiba MK6465GSX
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical drive Slimtype DVD A DS8A5SH
Battery capacity 4,400mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Above keyboard
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 43min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 26min
Overall application benchmark score 2.06
Office application benchmark score 1.51
2D graphics application benchmark score 2.33
Encoding application benchmark score 1.81
Multitasking application benchmark score 2.58
3D performance (crysis) low settings 81fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition
Software supplied N/A

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