Intel's Sandy Bridge delivers Speedy Gonzales results

For 18 months now the hot phrase has been the clocking potential of the Intel i7 CPUs and mainboard based on the X58 chipsets.  Along came Lynnfield,  six months later bringing with it  “bang for buck” for those who could not reach the ultimate offerings from Intel.  Over the last year,   Intel’s i7 CPU and the X58 chipset had us in awe at how much could be squeezed – and then some.   

Today’s offering of the Lynnfield successor is Sandy Bridge with the new Intel Core i7 2600K Processor.   Muhammad Ali once said “Champions aren’t made in gyms.   Champions are made from something they have deep inside them.  They have a desire, a dream, a vision.  They have to have the skill and the will.   But the will must be stronger than the skill”.

Within these 18 months the dawning of time has changed the way gaming and workstations function.   Intel’s i7 CPU and the X58 chipset most certainly had us in awe.    This brought forward our articles on “The Need for Speed”.   Whether a single socket Nehalem CPU or dual socket Nehalem CPUs  many have seen life changing opportunities for their gaming rigs, or as we fully focus on, the workstation environment.   

The changes have been huge and productivity has taken the biggest of leaps forward in many years. Not withstanding the costs of SSD’s has dropped dramatically and improved substantially meaning some of the fastest systems around are being built, today being a primary example.

Once more we see a significant change in focus with Intel’s offerings from the Nehalem family -enter the Sandy Bridge variant.  This variant, again, brings with it some very clever technological changes to the CPU and mainboard, and these will be covered briefly as we delve into the workings of both.  

The first Sandy Bridge chips to be unveiled today are as listed below

This range of CPUs from Intel is a serious choice for end-users, if cost is not a problem for those whose budgets just cannot reach the top end I7 CPUs. Performance is surprising to say the least. For a budget range CPU, in our opinion, the end-user is actually walking away with a very high end performing CPU.

Yes, you have read the Turbo Boost settings correctly.   On firing up for the first time we bounced straight into the BIOS and were nicely surprised seeing 3.8GHz in the Turbo Boost.   Pretty overwhelming.

With the new Intel DP67BG mainboard that we are looking at today we now see a mainboard schematic looking like this.

On arrival of the parts we took our normal analytical look at what we perceived the possible builds with the equipment we have to hand. 

Taking into account that these new CPU’s and Mainboards are not only aimed at the general public but the system builder too that supports the professional arena,  we see a rather juicy multimedia system that can be supported by either ATI’s or Nvidia’s Multimedia Cards. 

Or, a superb mid-range professional graphics workstation that fully utilises the new SATA ratification and if you really wish to push the boat out, overclock the system in either mode. 

There are a few professional system integrator companies now providing this, though take heed, overclock the system in the professional market and you null and void your warranty.   Current system integrators suppliers are providing their own warranties as we go to print.   So for once the mid range units are now affordable and we have at our disposal another excellent workstation to clarify oddities that some might see or hear of.

The plethora of benchmarks available in this arena; one could spend all day producing results if the time permitted, paralysis by analysis! 

In order to keep this a factual article we look carefully at what the community really needs  to see as timescales ran against us in providing you with more information.  So we chose the following to highlight just how good the new complete architecture really is in all arenas. 

In order to expedite the proceedings, all tests shown within are at their primary display default settings.  System left at default with the only exception of BIOS intrusion was to manually adjust the memory settings from 1333MHz to 2133MHz to obtain the full potential of Crucial’s new memory modules.



Confucius once wrote: “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”

Today we have seen from within a marvellous array of choice, superb overclocking potential and finally something that will suit the needs of many a pocket looking for that all important upgrade they have been holding back on.  

On the arrival of new technology of this magnitude, it is sometimes hard to sit back and gather thoughts after witnessing some pretty remarkable performances being produced. After all that we have collated today; the results speak very clearly, this is without a doubt yet another winner that Intel has brought to the fore.  

From a Multimedia aspect, this mainboard has got a whole load of bang to it. Overclocking potential is great and we are sure that many will bring some remarkable results to the fore.  Though with the mainboard and CPU at stock levels the synthetic results gained from both Nvidia’s GTX 480 and the Sapphire Radeon 6970 are quite astonishing.   

However one must take into due consideration the helping hand within the systems I/O from Crucial’s supply of its superfast  C300 SSD and the almighty new Crucial Ballistix, DDR3 PC3-17000.  We took the system to the maximum at stock and ran it without falter for 8 days flat out. 

To conclude this sector, a hands down winner for all manufacturers concerned.

After many years of paying premiums for mid entry level workstations we have options that are affordable and have the power within to provide the end-users a substantial stable workstation that will last for some time to come.  

We have over these last few months completely stressed this unit to its fullest without any problems.   The mainboards offer plenty of room for expansion in whichever way they are utilised as a home gamer, SoHo Workstation. 

Or, and more probable within the corporate market, place as a stand alone desktop unit as there is so much power inside.  More probable, the studios, CAD/CAM and DCC market as the system shown within fully combined and once more reiterating, a sound solid fast system.

Onboard Audio replay was very good producing a crisp pleasant sound back to the ear.  The onboard LAN, fast and efficient as we did not encounter any problems whatsoever hooked up within our tasking units here.

Each of the professional graphics cards performed well above everyone’s  expectations, returning from the SPEC tests some very impressive results.  The driver optimisations from both ATI and NVIDIA have embraced the new technology marvellously.  One point of note is that ATI’s drivers are now catching up, so we should see a change here soon. 

Though once more we have to take into consideration the whole I/O as without this we would not be seeing such excellent performing scores from both companies supplying the professional graphic cards.

Consequently and once more we have to reiterate the objectivity of choice. 

Choice to the budget user that sees the complete unique benefits the mainboards have to offer – Firewire and Bluetooth on the same mainboard.  This novel concept we see normally on notebooks, therefore the beneficial choice to the end-user means more simplistic productivity. 

Choice in CPU, whether a budget entry or a more upscale CPU that brings them in close proximity to to the high-end i7 chips.  We must recount just how much Turbo boost is hidden under the hood at default – yes, 3.8GHz is something to behold.  

So once more “bang for buck” is here without spending a fortune.  Those wishing to move up a gear but have not got the funds to reach the high-end i7 CPUs, then without doubt the Intel Core i7 2600K Processor is tremendously powerful and will last the end-user for many years to come.

We also see choice within our multimedia graphic cards. 

Whether ATI’s CrossFire or NVIDIA’S SLI, both multi card scenarios will keep many a gamer happy for hours.  Though those wishing to use a single GPU from either will see huge differences in performance uptake. 

As for the professional cards, in a tandem array, we need to further investigate, so watch this space for more news.   

Whichever way this is perceived the purchaser is onto a “win win” – as importantly, we have to remember that the Dual Channel memory choice means a upgrade path when the timing and the budget is right as the baseline memory bandwidth shows a very respectable result.

Penultimately we come back to the vogue “need for speed and the option of choice”.  Previously this was for the few who could afford, now it is within the reach of the many.

Finally we return for one last recount.  We have just skimmed over the iceberg of what really lies underneath,  so a more in-depth article will follow covering much more than today’s brief appearance. 

We have fast affordable CPUs, mainboards with a whole remit of functionality which will flummox many.  Upgrades are easily achievable and, the “need for speed” is there now for everyone to enjoy.  An exceptional piece of post-Christmas marketing by Intel’s  public relations team.  

Overall Intel has surpassed itself with this upgrade, allowing many to have what they could only read about or place on their wish lists.   Sandy Bridge is without a doubt the fastest CPU on the block in this sector and for a reasonably priced CPU you get  superb performance.    

Positioning your confidence in motherboard auto-overclocking and the i7 2600K and 4GHz is easily reached,  and for those who want more it’s all within your grasp, yes, on fresh air,  without any fancy cooling arrays.