Going back to the beginning of our article we would like to remind you that Intel positions their Sandy Bridge as a “tock” within their “tick-tock” strategy. It means that the developer considers this processor to be a bearer of the new microarchitecture. At the same time, we didn’t find anything mind-blowingly new about its structure and design. In fact, they improved a few things, brought back a few good old ideas and proceeded with deeper integration. Do they have the right to talk about a new CPU generation or in reality Sandy Bridge is just further evolution of Nehalem processors?
And here we don’t have even the slightest doubts: we completely agree with Intel on this one. Sandy Bridge processors is an excellent example of how new quality emerges from a number of quantitative changes that have accumulated over time. Numerous innovations in the microarchitecture of the new cores, added support for 256 bit AVX instructions, enhanced graphics core, hardware modules for video encoding and decoding, new L3 cache, ring bus, intelligent System Agent, more aggressive Turbo Boost technology and higher clock frequencies – all these things may seem little when taken separately, but together they create a principally better new product. And its advantage over the predecessors is quite noticeable – Sandy Bridge processors have become much faster within the same thermal envelope as their predecessors.
Of course, when we say “much” we do not imply that they have become several times faster. Nevertheless, if you replace your LGA1156 Lynnfield or Clarkdale based system with a similarly priced Sandy Bridge CPU and an LGA1155 mainboard, you can expect at least 25% faster performance in all CPU-dependent applications.
However, there are tasks where Sandy Bridge will be 10 times better than their predecessors due to new structural units. First of all, we can see a significant performance boost in many video transcoding utilities, which can now use special hardware codecs and decoders in the CPU. Also, multimedia, cryptographic, scientific and financial algorithms will now work faster on the new processors as they will utilize new AES-NI and AVX instructions. Of course, you can only enjoy all these advantages with special software optimizations, but they shouldn’t take long to be available, because Intel engineers did their best to ensure that software developers can easily use these innovations.
Those users who intend to use the integrated graphics core will also benefit from having this platform. Compared with the previous generation Intel HD Graphics, the new graphics core has become much faster, which the owners of new notebooks with Sandy Bridge and Huron River platform inside will feel. And if the new CPUs are intended for home desktop systems or HTPC, the built-in graphics core will provide HDMI 1.4 support required for ultimate 3D experience with external devices.
Overall, there is only one serious issue with Sandy Bridge, as we can tell at this time: overclocking. While the users in higher price range will be able to get an overclocking-friendly processor with an unlocked multiplier by paying a little bit extra, in the sub-$200 range there won’t be anything like that. So, LGA1155 platform will also set another tendency: Intel’s intention to prevent overclocking of their inexpensive CPUs. However, I doubt it will have any effect on the popularity of the overclocking phenomenon: AMD will happily open their arms for all users who love to squeeze all juices out of their systems, as they should also launch a milestone product next year aka Bulldozer.