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.

Bye Bye BIOS

However, Intel has decreed that all Sandy Bridge motherboards must use a new type of BIOS called an EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface). Although Apple has been using EFI in its computers for several years now, this move has caused plenty of confusion with motherboard makers designing retail motherboards from what we've seen, so we wanted to see if business specialists were facing the same challenges.

We therefore contacted Dell, HP and Fujitsu to see if the new EFI system would cause problems with their forthcoming ranges. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, only Dell has replied so far, assuring us that we will be implementing a UEFI BIOS with a platform stability for 15-18 months.'

However, Dell is still testing its systems and so couldn't give us any numbers on how much of a power saving they'll offer. It did say that Intel's new Anti-Theft Technology v3 was available to any customer who wants to implement vPro.' Anti-Theft is a hardware feature that allows administrators to remotely lock a laptop (via the internet) if it's reported lost or stolen.

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Whether or not you should upgrade your office to Sandy Bridge PCs and laptops is a premature question at the moment though, as no-one has any yet. Recent news of a major flaw in the SATA 6Gbps storage controller unit of the P67 and H67 chipsets has led to universal recalls of all Sandy Bridge motherboards, so systems could well be a month off yet. Plus the Chinese New Year holiday is in full swing at the time of writing which may affect the manufacturing output of China-based chip and motherboard factories.

UPDATE: Dell and HP have since confirmed plans to offer refunds or replacements for affected machines.

Assuming the bug is fixed, Sandy Bridge still offers you some interesting options: fast and light laptops might enable you to roll out that teleworking or hot-desking initiative. Equally, they'll make your workforce a bit more flexible if office downsizing has been mentioned recently. Replacing your desktops with Sandy Bridge boxes should also cut the power bill. We'll be bringing you reviews of Sandy Bridge-based computers as soon as we can and when your supplier has its Sandy Bridge lines in stock, it's well worth requesting evaluation units.

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