Intel Core i7 2600K and Core i5 2500K Review

ccokeman - 2010-12-06 18:17:39 in CPU's
Category: CPU's
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: January 2, 2011
Price: Core i5 2500K $216, Core i7 2600K $317


It's that time of year when the new technology start running out the doors and it becomes really interesting to see what has been brewing for the last year. For Intel, it has been cooking up a new processor line for the mainstream market that has been codenamed Sandybridge. If you have looked hard enough and carefully digested and read through the quick looks and pre-release articles, you could see where the performance lies and what this processor can do. One of the biggest things that has been rattled around in the forums has been the fact that overclocking on an Intel processor is officially dead. This could not be further from the truth. It's just that you have a different way of overclocking, much the same way we had to learn what the quirks of the Nehalem micro architecture were to get the most out of it. Sure bclock limitations are there, as most of you have read, but Intel has not locked out the enthusiast with the inclusion of a pair of K-Spec processors that are tailored to the mainstream enthusiast in the second generation Core i5 2500K and Core i7 2600K. Based on some of the overclocking I have seen, they just might move further up on the price/performance ladder and are easily a replacement for the current socket 1156 lineup where overclocking is concerned. Priced at $216 for the 2500K and $317 for the 2600K, they are less than $20 more than the current K-Spec Core i7 875 and Core i5 750. For that price, you get a processor with Intel's HD 3000 series integrated graphics built into the core for use in supporting H67 chipset motherboards.

These chips sport all new features, such as Turbo Boost Technology 2.0, Unlocked CPU, GPU and Memory multipliers, dual-channel memory support, XMP support, and a host of graphics enhancements with Intel Quick Sync Video technology, Intel In Tru 3D for full stereoscopic 1080p playback, and Intel Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel AVX) to help performance in video editing applications. It looks like Intel has taken Clarkdale several steps further up the performance ladder. Let's see how these new additions to the Intel family compare to the current crop of Intel and AMD processors. It looks like the media PC has come full circle and eliminated the past bottlenecks to performance.


Closer Look:

The first CPU I have here is the the second generation Core i7 2600K. These CPUs are designed to work with Intel's 6 Series chipset socket 1155 motherboards. The K-Specification at the end of the model number signifies that this CPU has its Turbo Multipliers unlocked for overclocking headroom and is an overclocking-enabled processor. This CPU has a base clock speed of 3.4GHz that is reached using a bclock of 100 with a multiplier of 34 and a Turbo Boost multiplier of 38 for additional speed in lightly loaded situations. The second generation Core processors are an architectural change and are built using Intel's 32nm process. The 2600K has four cores and supports Intel Hyper-Threading for a total of eight threads that can be run simultaneously. The 2600K is equipped with 8MB of shared cache that is dynamically allocated to each core to reduce latency and improve performance. The big change for this lineup is the inclusion of the Intel HD 3000 graphics processor that is built into the core. As an overclocking-enabled processor, you can increase the Turbo Boost multiplier for the core, the memory multiplier, and the graphics core multiplier to increase performance across the board. The 2600K supports DDR3 memory at 1333MHz in a dual-channel configuration, much like the previous generation Core i7 875. The TDP for this processor and the 2500K comes in at 95W. Pricing should be $317, or a $23 premium over a non K-Spec CPU.












The 2500K is, for all respects, a 2600K minus Hyper-Threading, a small drop in clock speed to 3.3GHz, and a reduction of the shared Intel Smart Cache to 6MB. This CPU is also overclocking-enabled with an unlocked CPU, GPU and memory multipliers. One thing the unlocked processors have that the locked 2600 and 2500 does not is the HD 3000 graphics, in lieu of the HD 2000, so for the price premium of $11, you get the increased capabilities on the graphics side as well.



The retail packaging has shrunk down alongside the die shrink to 32nm. The front of the packaging illustrates that these CPUs are Unlocked and Unleashed, showing the enthusiast nature of the K-Spec processors. The smaller packaging also gives you an indication of the size of the included heat sink. The packaging for the Core i5 2500K and the Core i7 2600K is shown below.


Since Intel designed these chips to be overclocked, Intel supplied us with its DHX-B tower-style heat sink to use when overclocking these processors. This tower-style heat sink uses three heat pipes and is almost a mirror image of the design delivered with the 980X. Along with this heat sink was the DHA-A stock thermal solution. By comparison, there is a huge difference in thermal performance between the two designs. The DHX-B is the one used in our testing.



Architecturally, the second generation Core processors are part of Intel's Tick-Tock strategy where a Tick is a process change and a Tock is a new micro architecture design. The Sandybridge lineup is a Tock, with a completely new architecture that includes a graphics engine as part of the core, not just an add-on under the heat spreader. The Sandybridge processors are built using Intel's 32nm High-k second generation manufacturing process for the whole core, instead of the 32nm core and 45nm GPU core on the Clarkdale dual-core processors released earlier this year. Below is the die shot showing how each part of the chips is allocated, along with an overview of the core components.



To support the second generation K-Spec processor lineup are the H67 and P67 chipsets. The H67 is designed more for the media specific PC that is used to view and manipulate digital content, whereas the P67 is geared more toward the power user with the absence of any integrated video support. This means you will need to use a discrete video card when purchasing a motherboard equipped with the P67 chipset. The H67 chipset supports dual-display functionality with DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort connectivity.



Now that we have seen what the processors have to offer, I can take a look at Intel boards that support the Core i5 2500K and Core i7 2600K and see just what kind of performance they deliver.

Closer Look:

The DP67BG (Burrage) is the board being marketed as the Intel board for the "Power User" and comes with the full hardcore feature set. This board is built using the Intel P67 chipset that offers a one-chip solution to reduce power consumption and increase the available space on the board for more efficient routing. Intel Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology are supported. You get DDR3 1600+/1333/1066MHz memory support with up to 32GB of memory in a dual-channel configuration, onboard POST decoder, CHiL voltage controller, USB 3.0, SATA 6 GB/s support, SLI and CrossfireX multi-GPU support, and more. Intel made sure to throw in all the bells and whistles to make sure this board performs. From the front, you get an idea that this full size ATX form factor board means business. The large heat sinks on the VRM circuit and PCH should keep these components cool under load. The rear is featureless with the exception of the back of the CPU socket retention mechanism. Another feature of the DP67BG is that it meets worldwide lead-free requirements, so you can be assured you wont be poisoning the little ones in your household. If you remember the DX58SO used to test the Core i7 965 and 920, when they were released in November 2008, the Skull at the bottom right of the PCB should be a familiar sight and lights up with HDD activity.


















I/O connectivity is pretty standard for a motherboard in the gaming/enthusiast market with a notable exception that Intel boards are really the only ones without a PS/2 connection for the mouse/keyboard. Many people still have a PS/2 keyboard, while many more have adopted a USB mouse. This is one of those things to think about when making your purchase decisions. Starting from the left is an eSATA port, a single 1394a Firewire port with another available from an internal header, eight of the fourteen USB 2.0 ports are available on the back with six more available through internal headers, a Back to BIOS switch that allows you to recover the BIOS after a failed overclock, an Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 Super Speed ports (Blue), the five analog sound ports, and the Optical SPDI/F port used in this ten-channel design. Expansion slots include two 16x PCIe slots that run at either 16x when one is populated and 8x/8x when both are populated in either a CrossfireX or SLI configuration, as well as three 1x PCIe 2.0 slots and a pair of PCI slots.



Along the bottom is where you find the additional connectivity for the DP67BG. In front of the bottom PCIe 16x slot is the front panel audio connection. On the bottom edge is an auxiliary fan header, SPDI/F output, and Diagnostic LEDs to help diagnose a no POST condition and to tell you what parts have initialized. Next is the front panel connection for the Power and Reset switches, as well as the HDD and Power LEDs. There there is the 1394a Firewire header and the three USB 2.0 headers that add an additional six USB 2.0 ports to bring the total of available ports to fourteen.



This board is equipped with a pair of SATA 6GB/s ports and four SATA 3GB/s ports that support RAID 0,1,5,10 using Intel Rapid Storage Technology. All these ports are 90 degree ports, eliminating any issues with discrete video card interference. Before the SATA ports are the Infrared receiver and transmitter. Behind this area is the Skull design that includes LEDs that light up with HDD activity and the Clear CMOS jumper (useful if the Back to BIOS switch does not help). Further up the right side of the board is another fan header, the 24-pin ATX power connection, and the onboard start and reset buttons - an added feature that is welcomed on this board. Add in the debug LED and you have a board that is showing Intel's commitment to the enthusiast segment of the market. Combined with the LEDs at the bottom of the board, you should have no problem diagnosing a no POST condition.


There is not much across the top of the PCB, but there are a couple of fan headers and the 8-pin auxiliary power supply connection for CPU power.



The CPU socket is surrounded by ferrite chokes and capacitors for the power regulation circuit for the Socket 1155 Core i7 and Core i5 processors. There are a total of four DIMM slots that support up to 32GB of DDR3 memory at speeds of 1600+/1333/1066MHz in a dual-channel configuration. This is similar to the socket 1156-based systems in terms of the layout.



The power circuits for the CPU are covered in large heat sinks to provide adequate cooling to the power circuit under load. Both of these heat sinks will benefit from airflow through the chassis or from a low profile heat sink that blows air directly over them. The PCH is covered in a single low profile heat sink and will most likely spend time under a discrete graphics card where it should see some airflow through the fan intake.



This board will be used to test the performance of the second generation Core i7 2600K processor to see what kind of performance it delivers, with the exception of the integrated graphics testing, which will be completed on the DH67BL.

Closer Look:

The DH67BL (Bearup Lake) motherboard is a MicroATX design that is packed full of functionality. This board is built using the Intel H67 PCH chipset and is designed for use with Intel Core i7 and Core i5 processors that use the Socket 1155 package. While the DP67BG motherboard is built for the power user, the DH67BL is built for the mainstream user that is going to be utilizing it for the multimedia capabilities of the Sandybridge processor family and H67 chipset. This board includes Intel's Gigabit LAN, 10-Channel High Definition audio, SATA 6GB/s, and USB 3.0 technology.



















The I/O panel features most of the connectivity for the DH67BL including the display outputs if you choose to use the built-in capabilities of the Intel HD 3000 graphics. Starting from the left, there is a single eSATA port, six of the fourteen possible USB 2.0 ports, a single RJ-45 Ethernet port for the Integrated Intel Pro gigabit network controller, a single DVI-I SL and HDMI 1.4 port that support dual independent displays, two USB 3.0 ports with 5GB/s signaling colored blue, and the audio connectivity for the 10-channel Intel High Definition audio that supports multi-streaming. There are five analog ports with an SPDI/F Out on the I/O panel, while an SPDI/F In is onboard along with the front panel connections. Expansion is limited, as you might guess on a MicroATX board, but there is a single 16x PCIe 2.0 slot, a pair of 1x PCIe slots, and a single PCI slot.



Across the bottom of the PCB, you find most of the additional connectivity for the DH67BL. From the left, you have the front panel audio connection, the Internal SPDI/F connection, four USB 2.0 headers for eight ports, and the Clear CMOS jumper - something Intel is still fond of even though the board partners have moved on.



On the right hand side of the PCB are the front panel connections for the power switches and LEDs. There are a total of five SATA ports; two SATA 6GB/s ports and three SATA 3GB/s ports with one additional red one supporting the use of an eSATA connection. Intel Rapid Storage Technology allows these ports to support RAID 0,1,5,10. Further up, you have the ATX 24-pin main power supply connection, IR ports, and debug connection.



Along the top there is not much to talk about, but there are a few fan connection headers for the front fan, CPU fan and the rear fan. The auxiliary power connection for the CPU is a 4-pin instead of the more common 8-pin design seen on power user grade boards. Between the rear fan header and power connection is the CHiL 8104 digital power controller.



Around the socket there is not a lot to speak about, but one thing that stands out on an Intel board is the lack of a Foxconn bracket assembly. If you choose to use a larger-than-stock cooling solution, there is plenty of room to accommodate it as even a low profile solution should have no problems here. The four DIMM slots support up to a total of 32GB of DDR3 1066 or 1333MHz memory in a dual-channel configuration using voltages from 1.2v to 1.8v for added flexibility. One note is that pretty much all the modules I tried in this board booted up with no problem, something I had a problem with when I tested the Clarkdale processors last year on the Tom Cove H55 board. The lack of heat sinks lets you know that this is not an enthusiast or gamer board, but there is still a single heat sink on board to keep the PCH cool.



This is the board I tested the Core i5 2500K on, as well as the Core i7 2600K when checking the graphics performance of the Integrated Intel Graphics. Overclocking was attempted, but any move away from the timings set by default ended with a no POST black screen. Adjusting the Turbo multipliers was not an available option, so the only speed bumps you will see with this board are when you enable EIST and Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology in the BIOS. That's fine since this board is not targeted for that segment of the market, although there needs to be support for that segment.


Intel Core i5
Intel Core i7
Processor Number


Price (1Ku)




Cores/ Threads

CPU Base Freq (GHz)


Max Turbo Freq(GHz)


DDR3 (MHz)


L3 Cache


Intel® HD Graphics 2000/3000


Graphics Max Dynamic Frequency
up to 1100MHz

up to 1350MHz

Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology


Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX)


Intel® Quick Sync Video


Intel® vPro/ TXT / VT-d / Intel® SIPP


Intel® AES-NI


Intel® Virtualization Technology






Intel Microarchitecture

Processor Graphics

Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0

Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology 2

Up to 8Mb Shared Intel® Smart Cache

Integrated memory controller (IMC) –2ch DDR3, up to 1600

Halogen Free*


The only way to know how a processor performs is to run it through a series of benchmarks, using both synthetic and real tasks to make a comparison as to how the processor performs against architectures from the same manufacturer, as well as competing manufacturers. Obviously, at this point, this leaves Intel and AMD. To test these unlocked processors, all the energy saving features, as well as performance boosting technologies, have been disabled on the motherboard in order to gain repeatable results. Otherwise, the results would not be a valid form of comparison. Intel's Turbo Boost technology provides a serious clock increase on this CPU that allows it to deliver performance in excess of what is available when the technology is disabled. A comparison will be made against both AMD processors and both the Intel socket 1366 and socket 1156 processors. Once the stock testing is completed, I will overclock the second generation Core i7 2600K and Core i5 2500K  to see if they deliver any overclocking headroom. Both stock and overclocked testing will be accomplished on the test platforms listed below.



Testing Setup: Intel Core i5/i7 Socket 1155


Testing Setup: Intel Core i5/i7 Socket 1156


Testing Setup: Intel Core i7 Socket 1366


Testing Setup: Intel Core i5 Clarksdale Socket 1156


Testing Setup AMD Quad-Core:


Testing Setup AMD Hexa-Core:


Comparison CPUs:



Overclocked settings:

The rumors have been that overclocking is dead with the introduction of the second generation Core processor lineup. If you read between the lines and didn't just jump to conclusions and read some of the early articles about the new lineup, you would know there is definitely going to be some overclocking going on. Back in May of this year, we got a taste of what was to come with the K-Spec 875 and 655 processors from Intel. The bclock increases are not going to be what we have been accustomed to seeing based on the way the chip is designed and how the internal timing is set up. The bclock range will come in from 102 to 109MHz, but anything over 105MHz is unusual. Both of these chips would do 104MHz with ease and the 2600K did 105MHz and not a single MHz more. From what I have been told about the unlocked multipliers is that you have that bell curve of chips that can hit over a 50 multiplier with 54 being about the maximum possible. The interesting thing about the Sandybridge processors is that the architecture does not respond to cold, as the tale is told, with the processors actually down-clocking the cooler they get. When I had a sneak peek at this architecture and some motherboards, I was suprised to see that these kind of numbers can be run with not much more than a modest tower-style heat sink with a single fan. So the two CPUs I have gotten to play with seem to be quite capable. The Intel H67 board used for the stock testing on the 2500K would not allow any overclocking, so I moved the chip over to the Intel P67 board and was able to hit almost 4.8 GHz in about ten minutes by upping the bclock to 104MHz and the multiplier to 46 - pretty simple really. The 2600K was just as easy to clock, but I spent a little more time trying things out with it and was able to pull an almost 4.7GHz clock out of it with a few adjustments to the core voltage. These numbers are easily 1+GHz overclocks. The other thing that you need to know is that all the energy savings tools, such as C1E and EIST, are used with overclocking this platform. In the past, this was one of the tools or tricks utilized to reach higher overclocks, but the opposite is true now. To minimize power consumption at idle, you need to lower the voltage and core clock speeds. To reach the overclocked speeds, you increase the Turbo Multiplier to get your maximum clock speed.



Intel has made available its Extreme Tuning utility. This compact program lets you make adjustments to just about all the tools necessary to increase the performance of your second generation Core processor. For adjustments, you have the bclock and multipliers for both Turbo Boost mode and the maximum non turbo multiplier, as well as the ability to disable or enable Turbo Boost Technology, define the maximum current allowed to the processor, adjust the memory timings, monitor the temperature and usage % of the CPU, and more. You can also view the current settings with the system information tab. It's a handy utility, but with each change you will have to reboot, so it is not as functional as the tools offered by ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI and others.




Maximum Clock Speeds:

Each CPU has been tested for stability at the clock speeds listed when in an overclocked state. These clock speeds will represent the overclocked scores in the testing.




  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Office 2007 Excel Number Crunch
  4. POV Ray 3.7
  5. Bibble 5
  6. Sandra XII
  7. ScienceMark 2.02
  8. Cinebench 10 & 11.5
  9. HD Tune 3.50
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  3. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  4. 3DMark Vantage


The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.


Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:



The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.












Lower is Better


WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 100MB and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds. Additionally, I will use the built in benchmark as a comparison.




Lower is Better




Lower is Better


Bibble 5:



In Apophysis, the second generation Core processors finished near the top of the comparison chart based on CPU speed. The WinRar testing backs up these results with the two new processors consistently near the top in compression time. Bibble 5 shows that processor speed and multi-threading deliver excellent results.


Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.



















Lower Is Better


POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built-in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric Multiprocessing), enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for a quicker completion.


Higher Is Better


Geekbench 2.1 provides a comprehensive set of benchmarks engineered to quickly and accurately measure processor and memory performance. Designed to make benchmarks easy to run and easy to understand, Geekbench takes the guesswork out of producing robust and reliable benchmark results.


Higher Is Better


The 2600K delivers performance lower than the 980X and above just about everything else in all these benchmarks, while the 2500K is easily outperforming its predecessor, the i5 750.


SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.



















Processor Arithmetic



Multi-Core Efficiency



Memory Bandwidth



Memory Latency



Cache and Memory



Power Management Efficiency



The 2600K starts out strong in the Processor Arithmetic testing, falling only to the 980X six-core processor from Intel. The Multicore Efficiency seems low by comparison to the other Intel processors. The Memory Bandwidth tests show the 2600K and 2500K delivering better bandwidth than their predecessors, the 875 and 750. In the Cache & Memory test, the second generation Intel processors score very well in the testing. All in all, the new processors from Intel seem to perform well in this test.


ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.



















Higher Is Better


CineBench 10 is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.


Higher is Better


CineBench 11.5 is the latest iteration of this popular benchmark that features a new look to the interface. This test now has a simple GPU and CPU test built in.


Higher Is Better


HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.


Higher is Better



Lower is Better


In the Sciencemark testing, the 2600K delivers the highest score in the stock testing and the 2500K, by virtue of its 4.77GHz clock speed, took the overclocked test. In the Cinebench 10 Single CPU tests, the new processors from Intel delivered excellent results while, when you get to the multiple CPU tests, the Sandybridge processors only fall behind the Corei7 980X. This trend is the same in Cinebench 11.5, showing how strong these new processors are. In the HD Tune testing, the results were in the middle of the pack for average read speeds, burst speed and access time.


Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real-time effects and damage. This next generation first-person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft, surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this Far Cry game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals.















The higher base clock speed allows the 2500K and 2600K processors to excel based on pure CPU speed. When overclocked, the new Intel processors really come alive and lead the scoring in all four tests.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the latest iteration of the venerable first-person shooter series, Call of Duty. Despite its long, successful pedigree, the game is not without substantial criticism and controversy, especially on the PC. Aside from the extremely short campaign and lack of innovation, the PC version's reception was also marred by its lack of support for user-run dedicated servers, which means no user-created maps, no mods, and no customized game modes. You're also limited to 18-player matches instead of the 64-player matches that were possible in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Despite all this, the game has been well received and the in-house IW 4.0 engine renders the maps in gorgeous detail, making it a perfect candidate for OCC benchmarking. You start off the single player missions playing as Private Allen and jump right into a serious firefight. This is the point where testing will begin. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps.

















When you look at the performance delivered by these two new processors from Intel and how they stack up against the current crop of processors with four or more cores, they stack up quite well again, staying in the top three positions in FPS delivered in all eight benchmarks. Not bad for processors that will be selling for mid range pricing.


Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter rivals, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to become the Dark Knight.


















In this game, the 2600K and 980X perform very closely, with the 2600K delivering a higher FPS count in five out of eight tests. The performance delivered so far by the 2600K and 2500K has been a refreshing surprise.


Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024x768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.


















Across all four tests, the 2600K outperformed all the comparison processors save the i7 980X. The 2500K fell a bit further back in the field, most likely due to the lack of Hyper-Threading, but it moves up a bit when overclocked due to the almost 4.8GHz clock speed.


The Integrated Graphics core has seen an increase in performance capabilities. With an increase in capabilities there is usually an increase in performance. When I tested the Clarkdale processor back late last year, graphics performance in games was pretty much nonexistent. Sure, you could get playable frame rates for casual games, such as the Sims, World of Warcraft, and other casual online games available, but nothing that is recent. Testing titles that typically require a discrete graphics card to play came to a sudden and abrupt end after the first games tested on the Clarkdale Core i5 661. Here it seems the new second generation Core i7 2600K and Core i5 2500K processors have a leg up on past integrated products. Using several of the benchmarks we normally use in our video card reviews, we dropped the settings down to the settings used in our low-end discrete GPU tests to see how the two new solutions fared. Far Cry 2 was run in DX9 mode with the global settings to low. In Batman: Arkham Asylum, the global settings were adjusted to medium. Lastly, in 3DMark Vantage, the Entry and Performance presets were used.




















In the Batman testing, the 2600K was markedly faster than the 2500K, but in both instances, the performance delivered was playable from 800x600 up to 1680x1050. The Far Cry 2 testing showed the 2500K to be playable up to 1280x1024 and the 2600K all the way to 1680x1050 when played in DirectX 9 mode.

One other test I ran was to use Arcsoft's Media Converter 7 to show how well the IGP helps with the conversion of video files to a portable format. In this test, with Intel Quick Sync technology enabled, the Integrated solution on the 2600K offered a 4x+ decrease over the CPU only, while the 2500K offered a 5x+ decrease in the time it took to convert the test file to a format viewable on my HTC Incredible Android based smart phone. Those are pretty substantial improvements in performance when you compare the numbers.


These speed ups in performance are well above previous generation hardware based on Intel's documentation. One big difference is that this work is done on the hardware instead of through software like on the Clarkdale and Arrandale processors. The graphics are not ready to take on the discrete cards for gaming, but look more than capable of running with cards built to enhance the computing experience for the everyday user. To make sure that the consumer can utilize the performance advantages of the second generation Core processors, Intel has worked with a multitude of software companies to have software titles ready to go at launch time from companies such as Arcsoft, Cyberlink, Corel, Roxio, and Adobe. This should allow you the opportunity to get the latest and greatest software for video editing, DVD authoring, and video conversion. You can pair this system up with a 3D capable display and viewing system to watch the latest 3D Blu-Ray content in stereoscopic 3D. In all, a win-win proposition for the consumer looking for an upgrade since not everyone out there is a hardcore gamer or enthusiast.


NVIDIA and Intel made a big splash with the announcement that NVIDIA's SLI technology will be fully supported by Intel's P67-based motherboards. This means that we should be able to hook up a Tri-SLI setup and get the most performance from our gaming rigs. To find out if this is true, I pulled one of the P67 boards sent for review that support a Tri-SLI configuration and hooked up a trio of GTX 580s to see where the performance curve was with the eye candy turned up. I will be using a new beta driver for the testing so the results should offer up a reasonable expectation of performance. I will run through a short list of games and benchmarks due to time constraints, but expect a full review with this setup in the near future.



3DMark Vantage

Metro 2033

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Alien vs Predator

Testing Setup: Intel Core i5/i7 Socket 1155





While the frame rates above do not seem all that impressive, you have to realize that the game settings are turned way up. This allows you the ability to get the best possible visual quality along with excellent frame rates. By moving to a more economical card, you can still see excellent scaling. Overclocking the CPU well above its factory Turbo Boosted 3.8GHz should pay significant performance dividends as well. As an example of the frame rate change when you lower the eye candy, the results in Batman: Arkham Asylum jumped to 329FPS at 1920x1200 and 286 at 2560x1600 - this using our standard Batman video card settings. If you have the means, the benefits are certainly there, but if your financial situation is little less robust, you can move down to a Dual-SLI setup and still see significant gains. However, testing was hampered by a glitch caused by the video driver causing serious lag in some situations. This went away with fewer than three cards.

Upcoming Reviews:

In the near future we will have a roundup of P67 based motherboards including offerings from ASUS, ECS, Gigiabyte, and MSI to see just how well the aftermarket has prepared for the introduction of Sandybridge. Will these boards offer up even more headroom than the Intel boards or will it be a lot of good looks and features? We will find out soon enough, but for now I will leave you with s few pictures from each board.
















ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution:

This board is fully loaded with all the bells and whistles and supports NVIDIAs TRI SLI graphics option, as well as AMD's CrossfireX, SATA 6GB/s, USB 3.0 and ASUS Exclusives such as Digi+ VRM, EPU, TPU and EFI BIOS and a revamped AISuite II. It looks like this one is going to be a monster!

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme:

This board from ECS is their high end offering and includes a LucidLogix chip for cross platform multi GPU combination's, Support for Intels Extreme Tuning utility, additional gold on the CPU socket contacts,and ECS software suite. This one definitely looks interesting.

Gigabyte P67A- UD4:

This board is part of Gigabytes Ultra Durable3 P67 stack, featuring Gigabytes 2x copper PCB, USB 3.0 , Support for AMD and NVIDA multi GPU solutions, SATA 6GB/s support and support for Intel's socket 1155 Unlocked SKU's, Dual BIOS and more.

MSI P67A-GD65:

This board is MSI's mid range offering for the P67 product stack and is chock full of MSI's enhancements such as their Military class components such as DRMOS and Hi-c caps and Super Ferrite chokes, uEFI Click BIOS, 1 second overclocking with the OC Genie that has proven fruitful in the past, and the Instant OC Control Center. These features are sure to impress when tested.


Check back for a full reviews on each of these boards.


There is no doubt about it, Sandybridge is hot and offers great overclocking headroom with the K-Spec CPUs. The one thing that struck me when I first had a glimpse of the potential of these processors at an ASUS-sponsored event, was how cool they actually run with a big overclock. The VRM heat sink temperatures were much higher than the CPU, even with a modest heat sink. The CoolerMaster Hyper 212 with a single fan was used and the load temperatures delivered were in the low to mid 60s Celsius. Impressive to say the least. The overclocking testing was accomplished with the Intel DHX-B tower cooler and, even with some big volts, the temperatures did not climb higher than the low 80s when using above 1.45v. By using my standard testbed cooling, the Noctua NH-U12P, they never came out of the 60s Celsius. Fine tuning the voltage would reduce the temperatures even further. With that being said, the overclocks achieved on these two examples of the Sandybridge lineup were literally the highest overclocks I have gotten on air cooling of any kind on any processor. 4.62GHz on the 2600K and 4.77GHz on the 2500K are just amazing for a new architecture and my first run through with them. So what do you say now about overclocking being dead on Sandybridge? Dead? I think not! And to top that, you can overclock with all the energy saving settings enabled so you get the best of both worlds - lower power consumption when you are idle and speed and performance when called for. You get it all.

Overclocking is only one aspect of these processors, but is really the reason for a K-Spec version. Performance-wise, the Sandybridge lineup was a complete surprise. In pretty much all the processor-based benchmarks, the pair performed as a newer architecture should and trounced the field, save for the Intel 980X. The higher base clock speeds definitely don't hurt the cause either, as most people buy processors and overclock them, so higher clock speeds equal greater performance and that sells. Bottom line, the performance can't be denied. C'mon, 4.6GHz and 4.77GHz can't be all bad!

Seeing as how these chips are for the mainstream market, they most likely will fall into the hands of those who thrive on manipulating and working with high definition video content, or maybe they will just be used in the next household computer replacement. In that role, the second generation Core series processors will excel. The casual gaming needs will be met with the integrated HD 3000 graphics. When I tested the Clarkdale processor earlier this year, anything other than some World of Warcraft or The Sims were unplayable. The improvement in graphics power is huge - Batman: Arkham Asylum was playable at 1680 x 1050 with medium settings, with the 2600K achieving 40 FPS. Far Cry 2 was playable at 40 FPS in DX9 mode with low settings at 1680x1050. This was not possible with the last generation, even when overclocked. If you are a gamer and want to get the most from games, a discrete card or cards will still be the way to go. Both AMD and NVIDIA multi-GPU solutions are supported and to check this out I popped in three GTX 580s and ran some tests to see where the performance fell. It really did quite well considering the CPU was limited to 3.8GHz in Turbo Boost mode.

Compressing media for use on portable devices is something we all do. Sandybridge does this very well. Intel has worked with companies such as Corel, WinDVD and Arcsoft and many more to have software available to take advantage of the abilities of this processor family. In my testing of the 2600K and 2500K processors, the speed-up when comparing the time it took to convert a file for use on my HTC incredible with the CPU vs the time to convert it with Intel Quick Sync enabled were on the order of 4x+ and 5x+. That's a substantial reduction in time, which means gained productivity or getting that time back with your family and friends. What this all boils down to is a new series of processors that deliver excellent performance across all aspects for a mid range price point. Intel has a winner with Sandybridge.