Intel’s Second-Gen Core CPUs: The Sandy Bridge Review

Benchmark Results: Content Creation

When it comes to professional content creation, it’s more common to find apps optimized for as many processing cores as you make available. Given AMD’s Phenom II X6 1100T placement, 3ds Max 2010 is employing all six of that chip’s execution cores. But Intel still manages to swipe a first-place finish using its Core i7-2600K. That’s a roughly $320 Intel processor going up against a roughly $270 AMD chip. Overall, not a bad showing for AMD…

…that is, until you get to Intel’s Core i5-2500K, which follows right behind AMD’s flagship, offering an unlocked multiplier and 95 W TDP for just under $220. Note that it’s beating Intel’s Core i7-875K—a Hyper-Threading-enabled CPU that sells for $100 more at the time of publication.

The rest of the field falls in place behind, for the most part tightly grouped. Check out the Core i5-2400 and Core i7-950 going head-to-head. That’s a $184 CPU matching stride with a $300 chip.

Seemingly bottlenecked by something other than threading, Photoshop is almost as kind to the Core i5-2500K as it is to the -2600K, both of which slide past the Core i7-875K.

Surprisingly, the Bloomfield-based Core i7-950 falls to the middle of the pack, just ahead of AMD’s hexa-core flagship. Confused as to why that part is able to best the 3.5 GHz Phenom II X4 970? Either Turbo CORE is kicking in, allowing the X6 1100T to jump to 3.7 GHz, or Photoshop really can put all six cores to work.

At least we know it’s able to use more than two cores—both dual-core Intel parts bring up the rear, including the Core i3-2100 in last place.

We use this Paladin sequence for benchmarking graphics. However, Premiere Pro CS5 doesn’t officially support CUDA acceleration on the GeForce GTX 580 without a little software hack. Otherwise its Mercury Playback Engine leans on CPU muscle.

More than 40 minutes of rendering time separates the first- and last-place finishers. We again see the Core i7-2600K up top—likely a result of heavy parallelism, which gives all three eight-thread CPUs first, second, and third spots. Two four-core Sandy Bridge chips follow, and AMD’s Phenom II X6 1100T falls behind them.

The message here is clear. First, if you’re doing heavy lifting in Premiere Pro, make sure you have CUDA support. We’ve seen this test finish in less than two minutes running on a mid-range GeForce card. Second, if you choose to ignore us on point one, throw as much CPU horsepower as possible at the app—it’ll use it.

Our custom After Effects benchmark isn’t as demanding as the Premiere Pro test. It’s hardly a surprise to see a trio of Sandy Bridge-based CPUs take the top three places, followed by Lynnfield and Bloomfield.

The six-core Phenom II X6 1100T’s extra processing resources give it an advantage over the Phenom II X4 970’s higher clock rate. And both AMD chips outmaneuver the older Core 2 Quad Q9550, along with Intel’s dual-core offerings.

By popular request, we’ve incorporated Blender into the test suite with a custom image rendering.

Starting from the bottom, both dual-core processors get embarrassed, despite the fact that Hyper-Threading allows each to operate on four threads at a time. Loud and clear, we’re hearing that dual-core chips aren’t the way to go for content creation.

Above that, you’re looking at a two-generation-old Core 2 Quad CPU and AMD’s fastest quad- and hexa-core processors. AMD’s placement on the charts is a little deceptive though, since the Phenom II X6 1100T is only six seconds slower than Intel’s Core i5-2400.

Still, the X6 1100T is priced at $265, while Intel asks $184 for its quad-core part.

Although the OpenGL test was run using a GeForce GTX 580 on all of these platforms, its results look like a shotgun blast on the wall. More relevant here are the CPU ratings, which put the Core i7-2600K in its familiar first-place spot, followed by AMD’s Phenom II X6 1100T.

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  • JE_D
    BENCHIES! Thanks Tomshardware!
  • Editor, page 10 has mistakes. Its LGA1155, not LGA1555.
  • cangelini
    MoneyFace pEditor, page 10 has mistakes. Its LGA1155, not LGA1555.

    Fixed, thanks Money!
  • juncture
    "an unlocked Sandy Bridge chip for $11 extra is actually pretty damn sexy."

    i think the author's saying he's a sexually active cyberphile
  • cangelini
    juncturei think the author's saying he's sexually active

    Just this.
  • fakie
    Contest is limited to residents of the USA (excluding Rhode Island) 18 years of age and older.

    Everytime there's a new contest, I see this line. =(
  • englandr753
    Great article guys. Glad to see you got your hands on those beauties. I look forward to you doing the same type of review with bulldozer. =D
  • joytech22
    Wow Intel owns when it came to converting video, beating out much faster dedicated solutions, which was strange but still awesome.

    I don't know how AMD's going to fare but i hope their new architecture will at least compete with these CPU's, because for a few years now AMD has been at least a generation worth of speed behind Intel.

    Also Intel's IGP's are finally gaining some ground in the games department.
  • cangelini
    fakieContest is limited to residents of the USA (excluding Rhode Island) 18 years of age and older.Everytime there's a new contest, I see this line. =(

    I really wish this weren't the case fakie--and I'm very sorry it is. We're unfortunately subject to the will of the finance folks and the government, who make it hard to give things away without significant tax ramifications. I know that's of little consolation, but that's the reason :(

  • LuckyDucky7
    "It’s the value-oriented buyers with processor budgets between $100 and $150 (where AMD offers some of its best deals) who get screwed."

    I believe that says it all. Sorry, Intel, your new architecture may be excellent, but unless the i3-2100 series outperforms anything AMD can offer at the same price range WHILE OVERCLOCKED, you will see none of my desktop dollars.

    That is all.
  • DjEaZy
    ... will wait til 'buldozer'... and two things may happen... the buldozer at the price point will kick ass... or the sandy bridge parts will get cheaper...
  • touchdowntexas13
    There is some pretty cool stuff going on here. I like the way the article points out the good and the bad. As for me I really am mystified at Intel's decision to only put the higher end graphics in the k-models as most likely anyone buying them will be going for the P67 platform that doesn't even use the integrated graphics. It would have been soooo much better for the HTPC crowd if there were some lower end chips with the better integrated graphics. I guess somehow this is money motivated???

    As for overclocking, well it seems a bit odd in the way it is being implemented. But for $216, I can't complain too much about a quad-core with a base clock of 3.3 GHz. Some enthusiasts won't like the limited overclocking features, but others will welcome the simplified approach.

    I will be building my brother a new gaming computer for graduation this summer and now I have another viable option to look at. I had planned on going with a P55 + i5 760, but now I will need to consider the P67 + i5 2500K.

    Waiting on bulldozer...
  • jyar727
    I mean this looks like a thorough test but its really not. I wanted to see an I7 1:1 clock performance comparisons. Mainly, 3.4GHz I7-950 vs 3.4GHz I7-2600K. Obviously 3.4 GHz new tech would usually beat a 3.0 current tech in benches. UGH. lame lame lame. Really want to see this comparison instead.
  • silversurfernhs
    Shouldn't the title be second gen Core i series... because Core 2s were second gen Cores, weren't they?
  • Tamz_msc
    Where is the 980x in these benchmarks?
    Other than that its a great article, and I'm drooling over QuickSync!
  • Maziar
    Thanks for the review Chris :)
    QuickSync definitely looks interesting.
  • Ramar
    I just bought an i5-760 system on 12/30 from newegg, I guess I wasn't paying attention to when Sandy Bridge would actually be released. It's not here yet, so I could just send the mobo and cpu back when they get here, but I don't see enough justification as a gamer to move to the 2500k. Based on the number of 1.35V 4.7ghz for the 2600k, I would assume that on stock voltage it doesn't get much higher in frequency than my 760 will, and I don't like raising stock voltage.

    This is all very nice, but I'll keep my bclk control for now and maybe move up when I get out of college in seven months and the tech is set in stone and dropping in price a little.

    Not a bad chip, and I'm excited to see where they go with it. =]
  • Hellbound
    Is sandy bridge the replacement to the x58 chipset? I thought I read somewhere they were planning on x68 sometime in 2011.
  • djdarko321
    Remember though as this is the lower end Sandy Bridge platform NOT THE MAIN LGA2011 socket. As Intel decided to release for the mainstream first before the enthusiasts this go around.
  • Tamz_msc
    Just looked at the AnandTech review and here is their opinion -

    In all but the heaviest threaded applications, Sandy Bridge is the fastest chip on the block—and you get the performance at a fairly reasonable price. The Core i7-2600K is tempting at $317 but the Core i5-2500K is absolutely a steal at $216. You're getting nearly $999 worth of performance at roughly a quarter of the cost.

    These things are as fast as the i7 980X and in some cases they're even faster!
  • swiftor
    i5-2500k + p67 ftw!
  • nekromobo
    What if you throw something like 8k x 4k or 4k X 4k resolution video to QuickSand.. Sync :)

    Nice review, but personally still not going to replace my 3.6ghz C2Quad.. when will this cpu die so I can replace it!
  • Shuge1
    Im just waiting for bulldozer to get me out of buyin the i5 2500k
  • Reynod
    Quick Synch is just downright embarrasing for AMD ...