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Windows 7: The Sandy Bridge Preview


30 Aug 2010   #1

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Ult x64 - SP1/ Windows 8 Pro x64
 
 
The Sandy Bridge Preview

Quote:
The mainstream quad-core market has been neglected ever since we got Lynnfield in 2009. Both the high end and low end markets saw a move to 32nm, but if you wanted a mainstream quad-core desktop processor the best you could get was a 45nm Lynnfield from Intel. Even quad-core Xeons got the 32nm treatment.

That's all going to change starting next year. This time it's the masses that get the upgrade first. While Nehalem launched with expensive motherboards and expensive processors, the next tock in Intel's architecture cadence is aimed right at the middle of the market. This time, the ultra high end users will have to wait - if you want affordable quad-core, if you want the successor to Lynnfield, Sandy Bridge is it.

Sandy Bridge is the next major architecture from Intel. What Intel likes to call a tock. The first tock was Conroe, then Nehalem and now SB. In between were the ticks - Penryn, Westmere and after SB we'll have Ivy Bridge, a 22nm shrink of Sandy.

Did I mention we have one?

While Intel is still a few weeks away from releasing Sandy Bridge performance numbers at IDF, we managed to spend some time with a very healthy sample and run it through a few of our tests to get a sneak peak at what's coming in Q1 2011.

New Naming
The naming isnít great. Itís an extension of what we have today. Intel is calling Sandy Bridge the 2nd generation Core i7, i5 and i3 processors. As a result, all of the model numbers have a 2 preceding them.

A New Architecture
This is a first. Usually when we go into these performance previews weíre aware of the architecture weíre reviewing, all weíre missing are the intimate details of how well it performs. This was the case for Conroe, Nehalem and Lynnfield (we sat Westmere out until final hardware was ready). Sandy Bridge, is a different story entirely.

Hereís what we do know.

Sandy Bridge is a 32nm CPU with an on-die GPU. While Clarkdale/Arrandale have a 45nm GPU on package, Sandy Bridge moves the GPU transistors on die. Not only is the GPU on die but it shares the L3 cache of the CPU.

There are two different GPU configurations, referred to internally as 1 core or 2 cores. A single GPU core in this case refers to 6 EUs, Intelís graphics processor equivalent (NVIDIA would call them CUDA cores). Sandy Bridge will be offered in configurations with 6 or 12 EUs.

While the numbers may not sound like much, the Sandy Bridge GPU is significantly redesigned compared to whatís out currently. Intel already announced a ~2x performance improvement compared to Clarkdale/Arrandale, and I can say that after testing Sandy Bridge Intel has been able to achieve at least that.

Both the CPU and GPU on SB will be able to turbo independently of one another. If youíre playing a game that uses more GPU than CPU, the CPU may run at stock speed (or lower) and the GPU can use the additional thermal headroom to clock up. The same applies in reverse if youíre running something computationally intensive.

On the CPU side little is known about the execution pipeline. Sandy Bridge enables support for AVX instructions, just like Bulldozer. The CPU will also have dedicated hardware video transcoding hardware to fend off advances by GPUs in the transcoding space.

And thatís about it. I can fit everything I know about Sandy Bridge onto a single page and even then itís not telling us much. Weíll certainly find out more at IDF next month. What I will say is this: Sandy Bridge is not a minor update. As youíll soon see, the performance improvements the CPU will offer across the board will make most anyone want to upgrade.
Much More...

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30 Aug 2010   #2

Windows 7 x64 / Same
 
 

I'm not crazy about their naming conventions as far as the numbers go. Always gets a bit confusing.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Aug 2010   #3

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Ult x64 - SP1/ Windows 8 Pro x64
 
 

They appear to be continuing with their standard method, confusing as it is...
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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30 Aug 2010   #4

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
 
 

I thought it was a wise move getting a LGA1366 mothereboard. Thought it would future proof me for a while.
Just shows how wrong you can be

Thanks for posting Dave.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Aug 2010   #5

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Ult x64 - SP1/ Windows 8 Pro x64
 
 

They are changing socket faster and faster it seems.

I thought I would be safe with my LGA1156, but evidently not.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Aug 2010   #6

Windows 7 x64 / Same
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by johnwillyums View Post
I thought it was a wise move getting a LGA1366 mothereboard. Thought it would future proof me for a while.
Just shows how wrong you can be

Thanks for posting Dave.
I have the same board. Built the rig in May-June. Looks like we can only enjoy up to the i7-980x which is 32nm.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Aug 2010   #7

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
 
 

Oh well. I'll just have to make do with that then
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Aug 2010   #8

 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Win7User512 View Post
Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by johnwillyums View Post
I thought it was a wise move getting a LGA1366 mothereboard. Thought it would future proof me for a while.
Just shows how wrong you can be

Thanks for posting Dave.
I have the same board. Built the rig in May-June. Looks like we can only enjoy up to the i7-980x which is 32nm.
There will be a i7-990x - basically it's just a 980x with a slightly higher stock clock and turbo.

Then that's it for 1366




***

Seriously though intel, new sockets, new architecture - give it new modifiers for crying out out loud.

Retaining the iX is just unnecessarily confusing for consumers.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Aug 2010   #9

Windows 8.1 Professional x64
 
 

I don't even want to think about that naming schemes they'll use for Ivy Bridge, though it's most likely still going to be iSomeNumberThatDoesn'tMeanAnything.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Aug 2010   #10

Windows 7 x64 / Same
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by smarteyeball View Post
Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Win7User512 View Post
Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by johnwillyums View Post
I thought it was a wise move getting a LGA1366 mothereboard. Thought it would future proof me for a while.
Just shows how wrong you can be

Thanks for posting Dave.
I have the same board. Built the rig in May-June. Looks like we can only enjoy up to the i7-980x which is 32nm.
There will be a i7-990x - basically it's just a 980x with a slightly higher stock clock and turbo.

Then that's it for 1366




***

Seriously though intel, new sockets, new architecture - give it new modifiers for crying out out loud.

Retaining the iX is just unnecessarily confusing for consumers.
I'll prob upgrade to the 980x when the price drops and be satisfied for a few years. I don't need a new processor when it first releases (too expensive and it's not like it will be the be-all-end-all).
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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