Based on the testing we saw with this early reference system of the mobile variant of Sandy Bridge, users looking for a powerful mobile platform will definitely fall in love with the quad-core SNB options. In our testing the Core i7-2820QM was easily the most dominant mobile processor we have ever tested and the benchmark results really look more like desktop numbers than those from a laptop.
The new processor graphics is also a breath of fresh air as it is clearly on another level in terms of gaming performance when compared to the current Arrandale processors on the market. Our testing system, although clearly at a higher price point than the Core i5-540M design, was able to play modern titles like StarCraft II, Left 4 Dead 2 and F1 2010 at medium settings at 1280×768. Nothing incredible but for a lot casual gamers, it will be more than enough.
Intel has definitely been paying attention to the market and has really made the Sandy Bridge design with multimedia at the forefront. Besides the new processor graphics implementations mentioned above, all the new processors offer support for Intel InTru 3D stereoscopic output (on H67 boards at least), Clear Video pre- and post-processing for videos, wireless display (on notebooks) and the oddly named, but very impressive, Quick Sync Video technology.
By moving the media encoding and decoding to a fixed function design rather than a more flexible programmable design similar to what Intel used before and what AMD and NVIDIA are currently doing, Intel increased the performance and efficiency of their product at the expense of extra transistors on the die and future-proofing. My initial time with Quick Sync Video enabled applications looks very positive but I am curious if anything else will happen with the media processing technology in the future or if all we will ever get is this initial launch push and promotion.
Pricing and Availability
Mobile CPU pricing is much more complicated than on the desktop side – very rarely are you buying a whitebox CPU and putting together a notebook on your own. Instead you are limited by what the OEMs and vendors design and produce, but I think it is fair to say that based on the numbers we saw on the first page, notebook pricing should remain very close to the levels it is at currently, but with a faster and more efficient CPU at the helm.
Intel is only officially launching the quad-core versions of the Sandy Bridge processors at CES this week but we expect the dual-core, and likely more common, versions to follow close behind later in the month. Designs are going to be available for purchase pretty much immediately – we are going to be reporting on many of them at CES – so keep an eye out on our news page!
Sandy Bridge is going to take over the desktop and mobile computing spaces again in 2011 – that much I am sure of. Competition from AMD will mainly be focused on the low-end markets for the time being with the Brazos / Fusion platform and it will be some time before we really get the mainstream components from them to push on Intel’s dominance. From what we have seen of Sandy Bridge customers are going to like what get and even though we have only been able to test the more expensive quad-core version today, dual-core options should be just as impressive in their price segments.