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  • I have been excited since the release of the new Sandy Bridge CPU’s.  After talking with Intel during CES, I was convinced that this would be a major step in computing.  On Sunday on my way back to LA from Las Vegas, I went to Newegg.com while at the airport and purchased a Sandy Bridge CPU and a new Gigabyte Motherboard.  The board arrived on Tuesday the 11th but unfortunately I was not able to install it and test it till the weekend.  Below are some pictures, video, and a short write up of my first impressions.  We are still early in the game so things may change but right now here is my thoughts…

     

    A MicroATX Gigabyte GA-H67MA-UD2H teamed with a Core I7 2600.

     

    P1010332

     

    P1010334

     

    P1010335

     

    Pretty Traditional board layout.  Nothing really out of the ordinary except the front panel audio connector is now next to the USB which is a much better place.

     

    Check out this quick video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oEiON66pXY

     

    P1010337

     

    Redesigned heatsink for the power regulation.

     

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    New chipset heatsink.

     

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    First impressions

     

    After I fired up the system I went into the BIOS to check the temps which is usually my first step.  I looked around all the menus and found it to be fairly standard for a Gigabyte board.  Some minor differences but overall it looked the same.  I was looking to see if they had added a UEFI section but did not see anything obvious.  Further research showed me that the board “does” support booting from a 3T drive but is not obvious how they are accomplishing this.

     

    The first issue I ran into was with memory.  I noticed that despite using DDR3 1600 it was only running at 1333mhz even with the XMP profile set or even when I set them manually.  It read the profile as 1600 but the motherboard would not support it.  I am sure this will get sorted out in an upcoming BIOS release but I was disappointed that I did not catch that when ordering the board.  It appears that form Gigabyte anyway, that all their MicroATX boards only support 1333.  Their full size boards do support higher memory bandwidth.

     

    P1010356

     

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    P1010355

     

    Problem number two is actually the way that Windows index reads the performance of the chip both CPU and graphics.  It is visually fast and responsive but the readings where less than impressive.  Granted these are new architectures and that have not received direct support yet and the chipset/graphics drivers are also new so thing are bound to improve.  I have included some comparison benchmarks from other systems I have so you can see for yourself.

     

    Core I7-2600

     

    WI-2600

     

    This is my Core I7-875K.  This system runs a discrete 9600 GT so the numbers on the graphics card a bit skewed.

     

    Core I7-875K Windows Index

     

    Core I7-940

     

    Jarvis WI

     

    To put in perspective, here is my Core I3-540.  As you can see it interprets the video as faster performance than the Sandy Bridge chip.

     

    Core I3 WI

     

    Everest Benchmarks

     

    As you can see below, Everest tells a different story.  It shows clearly the power of the new Sandy Bridge CPU.

     

    Core I7-2600

     

    2600-Memory Write

     

    2600-Memory Read

     

    2600-Memory CPU

     

    2600-Memory FPU

     

    Core I7-875K

     

    875k-Memory Write

     

    875k-Memory Read

     

    875k-CPU Queen

     

    875k-FPU Mandel

     

    Power

     

    As you can see from the chart below, this is one area where the Sandy Bridge really shines.  Equal or greater performance for a lot less power consumption.

    Start Up Idle Load
    Core I7-2600 70 40 105
    Core I7-875K (GT 9600) 140 122 192

    Conclusion

     

    Overall I am very impressed with the build, the performance, and the results.  Despite the performance anomaly of using windows index, the system is truly fast , gives you the performance you would expect from a quad core and does it very efficiently.  On a pure performance basis I not sure that I would upgrade an existing first generation Core Ix (unless power is an issue) but you have any of the older style CPU or platforms this is a no brainer.  Can’t wait to test the upcoming socket 2010…

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    Doc-- Nice write up and thanks for your work here. I am very interested in how battery life for mobile Sandy Bridge/Fusion chipsets will improve over today's chipsets. Would you expect improvements in battery life to be significant based on what you've seen so far from these new chips? Jim
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    Very nice Doc. Thanks for going into such detail. It's nice to be able to see the whole picture. Couple of questions though, you said you would hold off upgrading from a Core Ix. Are you including I3 and I5's in that mix or are you saying first gen. core I7x? Second question, am I reading the benchmarks right in that this $300 part is beating Intel's older $1000 part? Thanks again for the right up.
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    I was particularly talking about the I3 and I5's (Clarkedale) as they are already pretty power efficient. Assuming you are using them for an HTPC or server I would not upgrade. If you are using them as a desktop, it might be worth it if you can gain from the faster sata or USB3. The faster the chip the there is a gap in power consumption and in raw processing but in terms of servers or HTPC's it will not translate to visible gains. Thanks for the feedback.
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