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Efficiency Comparison: Sandy Bridge Vs. Intel And AMD CPUs

Efficiency Comparison: Sandy Bridge Vs. Intel And AMD CPUs
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The second-generation Core processors arrived with a bang, but what sort of progress can you expect in the performance per watt department? We compare Core i5/i7-2x00 to AMD's Phenom with four and six cores, as well as previous-gen parts from Intel.

Intel’s next-generation desktop platform, code-named Sandy Bridge, has finally arrived. Our article, Intel’s Second-Gen Core CPUs: The Sandy Bridge Review, digs into the architecture and performance benchmarks of the new processors and chipsets, while the article you’re reading today focuses on power consumption and power efficiency.

Lower power consumption levels are no longer just nice to have, but in fact we’re observing that power consumption and power management are turning into features that ultimately also help maximizing performance in many popular load scenarios. This is even more important, as Intel designed Sandy Bridge to be modular, so that it can scale from entry-level Core i3 to the high-end Xeons later this year. Effectively, the majority of Intel’s mainstream processor portfolio will be based on Sandy bridge by the end of 2011, which makes an additional efficiency analysis worthwhile.

Sandy Bridge will be deployed all the way down to the entry level later this year.Sandy Bridge will be deployed all the way down to the entry level later this year.

It was largely anticipated that Sandy Bridge would be capable of delivering more performance than Nehalem, and that it might use less power while delivering it. Our launch coverage already confirmed that Sandy Bridge (manifest in the Core i3-, i5-, and i7-2000-series), delivers substantially more performance than its predecessor. Architectural improvements are at the heart of this speed-up. An efficient ring bus, a decoded µop cache, improved branch prediction, larger buffers, widened floating point throughput, and improved memory availability all add up to notable clock-for-clock gains; we saw those all surface in the launch coverage, comparing Nehalem and Sandy Bridge in the single-threaded iTunes and Lame benchmarks.

In the end, Intel is moving more firepower and more features into existing segments. Although the LGA 1155 platform maintains the 95 W power envelope common in the company's mid-range portfolio today, Sandy Bridge processors are designed to radically shut off functional units when they aren’t needed. If you read our Sandy bridge launch article, you will probably remember that the processors feature a power control unit and three separate voltage and frequency domains. These facts are the main reason why LGA 1155 had to lose one pin (and backwards compatibility). The voltage regulators have to be capable of switching high currents much more responsively than before in order to properly support Sandy Bridge.

The S and T series bring thermal design power down to 65, 45, or even 35 W for low-power desktop applications by restricting clock speeds here and there. We will spend some time testing these offerings soon, but focus on the mainstream Core i5- and i7-2x00 series in this article.

Our efficiency testing is split into two parts. First, we look at systems with integrated graphics. Then, we compare machines with a discrete graphics card. The test systems with integrated graphics include an 890GX-based motherboard hosting AMD’s Phenom II X4 965 and X6 1100T. Picking slower AMD offerings would have moved the comparison price point too far down. We also added Intel’s H55 platform with the Core i5-661 and i3-530 dual-core CPUs, and H67 with Core i5-2500K and i7-2600K.

On the discrete graphics side, we grabbed the same AMD solutions, Intel’s Core i5-750 and Core i7-875K, and again the new Core i5-2500K and Core i7-2600K.

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  • 5 Hide
    unlicensedhitman , January 4, 2011 5:47 AM
    Very good late night read :p 
  • 8 Hide
    gomi , January 4, 2011 5:51 AM
    AMD has some serious catching up to do! I hope bulldozer can keep it competitive!
  • 4 Hide
    jprahman , January 4, 2011 6:00 AM
    Wow, Sandy Bridge 50% faster on average with 50% less power draw than the Phenom II X4's and X6's. AMD really needs to deliver with BD, offering performance that is close, but at a lower price point.
  • 4 Hide
    joytech22 , January 4, 2011 6:12 AM
    AMD better step up their game because these results are worrying.

    If AMD don't deliver this year I'm straight for Intel.
  • -1 Hide
    fstrthnu , January 4, 2011 6:34 AM
    Looks like AMD better use their last lifeline (Bulldozer) well; otherwise, it's off to the races for Intel. By now, there's no way AMD's ever going to catch up to Intel (since they're already behind now, and Intel's going to be even further ahead by the time Bulldozer's out)
  • 3 Hide
    Reynod , January 4, 2011 6:34 AM
    Bulldozers new cores will not see a significant IPC improvement to allow it to come anywhere near SB, so AMD's major drawcard still remains in the low end of the market with fuzion products delivering a better quality IGP (on die) than SB ... albeit, from the previous article and anandtech's tests, SB has a pretty good alternative with the 3000 series graphics core.

    SB also has a ULP version which will compete with Fuzion, a faster cpu and a comparable GPU solution, so Intel are not leaving the portable end of the market to AMD either.

    AMD's focus on real cores whilst commendable, isn't a serious competitor to Intel now they have a much faster, wider executing processor, running on a smaller, cooler, more cost effective process.

    AMD would have to pull three cats of of the bag to come near to catching up ... I don't see that happening.

    I mentioned previously about AMD's ability to make better use of the GPU ondie, to do things like encoding and decoding, and Intels fast response hase been the Quick synch engine. Note this only works if you have the IGP enabled, but it delivers. AMD has not been able to respond again ... when this is an area they have expertise.

    I see AMD's stock starting to plummet one these start volume production, as they have no real market niche to retreat to ... other than "value" ... at the very real loss of profits as a consequence.

    Where is NVidia in all of this?

    Quite frankly they are gone ... unless the company shrinks to "boutique" level, trying to compete with AMD on high end discrete graphics. No chipset market, and Tegra2 chews too much power.

    Intel will rise now to the point where all opposition is likely to be crushed into oblivion.

    That's not a nice place to be when your a consumer.

    Ask the electronics and car industries what it is like to be held to ransom by the Chinese rare earth mines ...
  • 4 Hide
    mosox , January 4, 2011 6:39 AM
    Nice but why the i5-750 and not the 760?

    I'd rather want to see the $100-$150 chips. For a regular user on a budget those are much more interesting -> cheaper CPU = more $$ for a better video card. Who cares about 10 seconds/minute, when encoding or archiving, really? Not me.

    Cheap quads and cheap good mobos, that's what we need, Intel. Also the ability to replace our dual/quad with a 6 or 8 core CPU on the same mobo.
  • 1 Hide
    andrewcutter , January 4, 2011 6:39 AM
    in the test system page, the lga 1155 platform has lga 1156 processor :D 
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 4, 2011 7:33 AM
    There should be a comparison between Intel Sandy Bridge vs AMD Fusion.
  • 1 Hide
    chovav , January 4, 2011 7:48 AM
    Was that the standard Intel cooler you were using on the SB platform? and if you'll use a (good) after-market cooler , will the turbo boost stay on continually? Did you check what clock rates the cores were at with the multi-threaded applications?

    ...and what about overclocking SB? why haven't we seen anything about that?


    great article for the rest, its amazing to see that Intel has twice the efficiency score of AMD..
  • 1 Hide
    Tamz_msc , January 4, 2011 9:11 AM
    Eagerly awaiting some overclocking articles!
  • 3 Hide
    JimmiG , January 4, 2011 9:20 AM
    AMD's current architecture isn't really bad, it's just outdated. They just haven't done enough from K7 (1999) to K10.5. So BD really needs to be quite radical.

    I'm still hoping BD will be competitive. If not, CPUs that cost "only" $999 will be considered cheap, while performance of low-end and mid-range CPUs would stagnate at current levels. No need to lower your profit margins and bring out something faster when there's no competition. Maybe a small speed bump every couple of years to make people upgrade, but they'd essentially only be competing against themselves.
  • 1 Hide
    vaughn2k , January 4, 2011 9:44 AM
    Waiting for 'Zacate' Bench... before I decide...
  • 0 Hide
    christop , January 4, 2011 10:36 AM
    nice..
  • -1 Hide
    jasonpwns , January 4, 2011 11:04 AM
    reynodBulldozers new cores will not see a significant IPC improvement to allow it to come anywhere near SB, so AMD's major drawcard still remains in the low end of the market with fuzion products delivering a better quality IGP (on die) than SB ... albeit, from the previous article and anandtech's tests, SB has a pretty good alternative with the 3000 series graphics core.SB also has a ULP version which will compete with Fuzion, a faster cpu and a comparable GPU solution, so Intel are not leaving the portable end of the market to AMD either.AMD's focus on real cores whilst commendable, isn't a serious competitor to Intel now they have a much faster, wider executing processor, running on a smaller, cooler, more cost effective process.AMD would have to pull three cats of of the bag to come near to catching up ... I don't see that happening.I mentioned previously about AMD's ability to make better use of the GPU ondie, to do things like encoding and decoding, and Intels fast response hase been the Quick synch engine. Note this only works if you have the IGP enabled, but it delivers. AMD has not been able to respond again ... when this is an area they have expertise.I see AMD's stock starting to plummet one these start volume production, as they have no real market niche to retreat to ... other than "value" ... at the very real loss of profits as a consequence.Where is NVidia in all of this?Quite frankly they are gone ... unless the company shrinks to "boutique" level, trying to compete with AMD on high end discrete graphics. No chipset market, and Tegra2 chews too much power.Intel will rise now to the point where all opposition is likely to be crushed into oblivion.That's not a nice place to be when your a consumer.Ask the electronics and car industries what it is like to be held to ransom by the Chinese rare earth mines ...


    Quite frankly I will be buying a bulldozer chip. My athlon ii x4 has done what it needed to and I am a gamer so therefore AMD still has me as a customer. I am also a Nvidia customer (so basically I get screwed in terms f sli) If you think Nvidia is close to dead then you really are ignorant. Also bulldozer low wattage chips consume very little power consumption same with the gaming chips. All I am going to say wait for bulldozer before you speak.
  • 1 Hide
    hannibal , January 4, 2011 11:12 AM
    AMD don't have enough money to compete in production technology...
    If AMD would make SP "copy" with their factories in 45nm production technology, it would not be so good CPU, because Intel has better production technology at this moment.

    Hard situation for customers indeed... I still remember time when Intel CPU's were very expensive because of no/little competition...
    AMD needs to have good 32nm transition and good architecture upgrade (bulldoser) at the same time. Hard trick to do (Intell do it one step at time / tick tock...), but I really hope that AMD can do it. In gpu part there should not be problem. SB GPU is not so impressive, but if Intel production technology allow faster clockspeed in smaller space, even superior GPU technology would in trouble.
    I will kept my fingers crossed that AMD pulls the rabbit out of the hat and bulldoser cause some sweat to Intel. It would be more than healthy!
  • -1 Hide
    Wheat_Thins , January 4, 2011 11:20 AM
    jasonpwnsQuite frankly I will be buying a bulldozer chip. My athlon ii x4 has done what it needed to and I am a gamer so therefore AMD still has me as a customer. I am also a Nvidia customer (so basically I get screwed in terms f sli) If you think Nvidia is close to dead then you really are ignorant. Also bulldozer low wattage chips consume very little power consumption same with the gaming chips. All I am going to say wait for bulldozer before you speak.


    So you're going to buy a bulldozer regardless even if Intel wipes the floor with it? Fanboy to the core?
  • 3 Hide
    johntmosher , January 4, 2011 11:34 AM
    Why don't you include the i7 980x in the benchmarks?
  • 1 Hide
    gamerk316 , January 4, 2011 11:38 AM
    Ouch. The trashing continues...
  • -1 Hide
    jasonpwns , January 4, 2011 11:41 AM
    hannibalAMD don't have enough money to compete in production technology...If AMD would make SP "copy" with their factories in 45nm production technology, it would not be so good CPU.Hard situration for customers indeed... I still remember time when Intel CPU's were very expensive because of no/little competition... AMD needs to have good 32nm transition and good architecture upgrade (bulldoser) at the same time. Hard trick to do (Intell do it one step at time tick tock...), but I really hope that AMD can do it. In gpu part there should not be problem. SB GPU is not so impressive, but if Intel production technology allow faster clockspeed in smaller space, even superior GPU technology would in trouble.I will kept my fingers crossed that AMD pulls the rabbit out of the hat and bulldoser cause some sweat to Intel. It would be more than healthy!


    The reason for this is everyone even gamers (sheesh) think that 3 frames is going to make such a big difference. My athlon ii x4 paired with a gtx260 runs all the games I want on High/Max with 4x AA with a resolution of 1366x768. I am sure it could take on higher ones. In games there is little to no difference in frames between AMD/Intel CPU's only a bigger price tag.
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