The skinny on Intel’s next generation Core 2011 processors

It’s the start of the year and just like the tick-tock of a clock, Intel has officially announced their latest processor codenamed Sandy Bridge. These 2nd generation Intel Core processors are based on 32nm microarchitecture which was also used by the previous Westmere-based processors in the second half of 2010, but with a cleaner and more elegant design.

sandy bridge

Ok that’s a lot of geek stuff for an opening statement. So what does this mean for the average PC buyer? What’s new with this Sandy Bridge thingy? Is it time for an upgrade? We’re going to explain to you in a user-friendly way what Sandy Bridge means for the average consumer. Besides I’m not good with all those hardcore techie stuff.

What’s new with Sandy Bridge?

Perhaps the most evident improvement in Sandy Bridge over Westmere is that the CPU and GPU are in the same die (as opposed to an off-die solution) sharing the same 1MB cache. This would significantly improve its performance and power consumption.

High-end versions will support DDR3 memory modules running at 1600MHz with four memory channels for up to 32GB worth of RAM. Intel has also improved its Turbo Boost and Hyper-threading technologies claiming the new chips will give a 60% improvement on their quad-core mobile CPUs.

So nothing much has changed save for the same-die solution for the GPU and improved technology.

How do I know if an Intel Core processor listed is based on Sandy Bridge?

The main difference with old Core i series processors is that Sandy Bridge uses four numbers following the processor name rather than three (e.g. i5-2500K, i3-2310M, i7-2630QM and so on). Intel will be releasing a total of 29 new processors for Sandy Bridge ranging from mobile, ULV to high-end and Extreme Edition processor.

Just how good is the integrated graphics on the new processor?

The integrated graphics on the new chips (HD2000/3000) provide twice the performance as the old GMA 4500 chips. Being on the same die as the CPU, the GPU will also benefit from Intel’s Turbo Boost technology. For example, the 650MHz clock rate of the GPU on the Core i5-2520M can go up to 1150MHz once Turbo Boost kicks in. And with what they call Quick Sync feature, Intel promises a much faster video transcoding– about 17x faster than older generations of integrated graphics.

Should I upgrade? Can I slap it on my existing motherboard?

These new processors comes with fresh core-logic chipsets so you definitely need a new motherboard (LGA1155). Motherboards using Intel’s new P67 Express chipset like the Asus P8P67 PRO has some exciting features that’s worth upgrading for. There’s the support for 6Gbps SATA (can you say SSD?), USB 3.0 and full PCI Express 2.0 bandwidth. And there are some new automation features for overclocking and saving power. If those stuff sound good to you then go ahead and upgrade to the new Intel Core processor.

It’s going to be great times for overclockers and hardcore PC enthusiasts. As for ordinary Juans like you and me, expect better performance and improved battery life on ordinary laptops powered by these Intel Core 2011 processors. I’m thinking it’s time to swap my old notebook with a new one.

Better expect news on a lot of laptops in the coming weeks featuring the Intel’s Core 2011 processors.

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