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

Benchmark Results: Productivity

ABBYY’s FineReader 10, an optical character recognition app, was another requested benchmark. We’ve automated the scanning of a 111-page document for testing—a task that apparently really appreciates parallelism.

The top two finishers are quad-core, Hyper-Threading-enabled CPUs, and third place goes to AMD’s six-core entrant. Fourth belongs to the Core i7-950 (Bloomfield), also able to work on eight threads concurrently.

It takes more than twice as long to get this workload completed on either of the dual-core CPUs compared to Intel’s Core i7-2600K.

Another significant comparison here is between the Core i5-2400 and Phenom II X4 970 (both $185 processors). In case you haven’t been keeping score, the i5 has beaten the Phenom II in every single test. It looks like AMD is going to have to drop prices to make its fastest quad-core chip competitive.

I stopped using the Lame benchmark a while back, but it makes for yet another point of comparison (and a decent indication of performance on a clock-for-clock basis, given its single-threaded operation), so I’m including it here.

The scaling falls in line with what we’d expect. As you get down to the Phenom IIs, bear in mind that the X6 1100T has Turbo CORE, which is able to send it to 3.7 GHz in a workload like Lame.

The only other anomaly would seem to be the Core i7-875K. But its 3.6 GHz Turbo Boost ceiling is undoubtedly the reason it beats the Core i5-655K, despite a sizable base clock disparity.

We phased WinZip out a while ago. But with the release of WinZip 14, Intel got the developer to include AES-NI support. So, we’re putting it back into rotation, alongside the latest versions of WinRAR (no AES-NI support) and 7-Zip (free to use; includes AES-NI).

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think we duplicated the charts for Lame and WinZip. Indeed, it looks like the fine folks at WinZip still haven’t optimized for threading, and so performance is based almost exclusively on IPC throughput and clock rate, rather than parallelism. Boooring.

Thanks to all of our readers who suggested adopting WinRAR 4.00 and 7-Zip 9.20—we’ve upgraded both utilities to the latest versions.

While the results of our WinRAR compression routine don’t look significantly different than the WinZip charts, you will notice that the dual-core Core i5-655K gets knocked down to last place and the Core i3-2100 falls behind the Core i7-950 and Core i7-875K.

Unfortunately for AMD, the six-core 1100T and four-core 970 don’t move up in the standings, despite the threading optimizations in WinRAR. We’re not sure if this is a development issue or not, but there’s a pretty clear tendency toward the new Sandy Bridge processors here.

Rather than run the same set of files through a third compression utility, we took advantage of 7-Zip’s built-in ability to measure each platform’s performance in millions of instructions per second.

Parallelism really benefits the 7-Zip metric, which we set to take advantage of all available threads on each CPU.

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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 ...