Articles: CPU

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We have already dedicated quite a few articles to the new Intel Sandy Bridge processors. We have gone into the tiniest details of their microarchitecture, tested the most popular Core i5-2500, Core i5-2400 and Core i5-2300 CPU models, discussed a Core i5-2400S processor with lower power consumption, checked out the overclocker-friendly Core i5-2500K and Core i7-2600K, and admired impressive energy-efficiency of the 35 W Core i3-2100T. It appears that out of all second generation Core processors currently available in retail we haven’t yet given personal treatment only to two Core i3 CPUs. Time has come to correct this omission, so today we are going to talk about Core i3-2120 and Core i3-2100 processors.

Core i3 processors from the Sandy Bridge family have two distinguishing features. First, it is their low price. At this point and until Intel rolls out Pentium processors based on the new microarchitecture, these would be the junior LGA1155 processors. They set the minimal price for entering the Sandy Bridge club at $120-$140.

The second distinguishing feature between Core i3 and the higher-end models is the dual-core design. Although the second-generation Core solutions are manufactured using the latest 32 nm process, the introduction of four computational cores into inexpensive processors would be a waste for Intel. It is AMD, who have to resort to a measure like that, because right now they do not have any other way of making their inexpensive processors fast enough. As for Intel, they have no problems with the performance of their individual processor cores, so CPUs with two computational cores inside is a pretty normal occurrence for contemporary mainstream and entry-level systems. Especially, since they also have the remarkable Hyper-Threading technology at their disposal, which allows each of the cores to execute two threads at the same time. And by the way, dual-core design is used successfully not only in the Core i3 series discussed today. Similar Sandy Bridge processors are popular in mobile computer systems, even in the mainstream segment, where they are called Core i5 and even Core i7.

However, in desktops dual-core design won’t go in anything more expensive than Core i3. Although in the near future Intel is going to introduce dual-core LGA1155 Pentium and Celeron processor families, which will also be based on Sandy Bridge microarchitecture. In other words, dual-core processors in Intel’s representation are far from ending their life span and should live happily for a considerably while longer.

Speaking of the desktop processors, we would like to stress that when they rolled out new microarchitecture, the nomenclature of their base LGA1155 processor lineup started to make even more sense:

No matter what they say about the sufficient performance of the new generation dual-core CPUs, we still notice that there is no dual-core design in the Core i5 series any more. Should we take it as a hint that dual-core processors get close to becoming morally obsolete and we should get used to the idea that a contemporary computer system must have a quad- or even six-core CPU inside? Or is it a mere attempt to completely destroy the competition in the mainstream price segment? Let’s try and figure this out now.

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