What’s so great about Intel’s Sandy Bridge?

Intel’s latest generation of processors, codenamed Sandy Bridge, was recently released to huge acclaim. Clive Webster investigates what all the fuss was about.

Fast and Furious

While it's all very clever to merge CPU and graphics units in a single processor design, it's the performance of Sandy Bridge CPUs that's taken us by surprise. Put simply, the new processors are incredibly fast for their price we've seen a 125 (ex VAT) Sandy Bridge desktop CPU put a powerful 375 (ex VAT) LGA1366 Core i7 processor to shame which is good news for those who like their laptops and desktops to be constantly responsive and snappy.

Part of the reason behind the speed of Sandy Bridge is the pure frequency at which the CPUs operate. The slowest desktop CPU of the current range, the Core i5-2400, is a quad-core CPU clocked at 2.8GHz, a 0.4GHz increase on the slowest LGA1156 Core i5; the even cheaper dual-core Sandy Bridge Core i3 range is yet to be launched. As well as the default frequency of a Sandy Bridge CPU, there's the Turbo Boost 2 technology, which adds another 0.3-0.4GHz automatically if your workload demands more performance. Certain systems with robust enough cooling can enable a Sandy Bridge CPU to boost even further than that. These high frequencies are joined by architectural upgrades that are good for another 10-15 per cent extra performance clock-for-clock over a previous-generation processor.

Power Mad

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While it's all well and good that a 125 (ex VAT) Core i5-2400 is roughly 25 per cent faster than a previous-generation 125 (ex VAT) Core i5-760, it's the low power draw that's really impressive. An i5-2400 PC consumes around 20 per cent less power when idle than an i5-760 PC from our testing (with consumer hardware). Even better, LGA1155 motherboards don't appear to be more expensive than their older LGA1156 counterparts, so Sandy Bridge PC should be comparably priced to current LGA1156 systems.

The speed of Sandy Bridge processors means that laptops are a more viable option as a no-compromise business machine. This can increase the flexibility and productivity of employees working from home, or increase the practicality of hot-desking your workers won't be moaning about having to use a slow laptop and the relatively low power consumption and heat output of Sandy Bridge CPUs should lead to slimmer, lighter laptops which will please frequent business travellers.

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