Intel’s Sandy Bridge i7-2820QM: Upheaval in the Mobile Landscapeby Jarred Walton on January 3, 2011 12:00 AM EST
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- Sandy Bridge
Intel’s Sandy Bridge: Upheaval in the Mobile Landscape
You’re probably sick of me talking about Sandy Bridge in our notebook reviews, particularly since up to now I’ve been unable to provide any numbers for actual performance. Today, Intel takes the wraps off of Mobile Sandy Bridge and I can finally talk specifics. Notebooks have always been substantially slower than desktops, and prices for a set level of performance have been higher; that’s not going to change with the SNB launch, but the gap just got a lot narrower for a lot of users. The key ingredients consist of higher core clocks with substantially higher Turbo modes, an integrated graphics chip that more than doubles the previous generation (also with aggressive Turbo modes), and some additional architectural sauce to liven things up.
If you haven’t already done so, you’ll probably want to begin by reading Anand’s Sandy Bridge Architectural Overview, as well as our Desktop Sandy Bridge coverage. I’m not going to retread ground that he’s already covered, so the focus for this article is going to be solidly on the mobility aspects of Sandy Bridge. With notebooks now outselling desktops by almost two to one, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a greater emphasis is being placed on the new mobile offerings. For starters, most of the mobile SNB chips are getting the full 12EU graphics core, rather than a trimmed down 6EU variant. Toss in all of the improved power management features and what we end up with is a fast-when-needed, power-friendly, and efficient chip. We’ll get to the benchmarks in a moment, but let’s start with a recap of the mobile Sandy Bridge lineup.
|Intel Mobile Sandy Bridge (Retail)|
|Max SC Turbo||3.5GHz||3.4GHz||3.3GHz||3.4GHz||3.3GHz||3.2GHz|
|Max DC Turbo||3.4GHz||3.3GHz||3.2GHz||3.2GHz||3.1GHz||3.0GHz|
|Max QC Turbo||3.2GHz||3.1GHz||3.0GHz||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Base GFX Freq.||650MHz||650MHz||650MHz||650MHz||650MHz||650MHz|
|Max GFX Freq.||1300MHz||1300MHz||1300MHz||1300MHz||1300MHz||1300MHz|
Up first, we have the retail SKUs for the quad-core and dual-core parts. Worth noting is that availability of the quad-core processors should start this week, but the dual-core and LV/ULV parts won’t show up for a few more weeks. The quad-core parts will also use a different BGA package than the dual-core parts. The above will be the most readily available Sandy Bridge parts, as well as the fastest offerings, but there are additional OEM and LV/ULV products as well.
|Intel Mobile Sandy Bridge (OEM)|
|Max SC Turbo||2.9GHz||2.9GHz||2.9GHz||N/A|
|Max DC Turbo||2.8GHz||2.8GHz||2.6GHz||N/A|
|Max QC Turbo||2.6GHz||2.6GHz||N/A||N/A|
|Base GFX Freq.||650MHz||650MHz||650MHz||650MHz|
|Max GFX Freq.||1200MHz||1100MHz||1200MHz||1100MHz|
We might get some of the above in OEM systems sent for review, and if so it will be interesting to see how much of an impact the trimmed clock speeds have on overall performance. The only mobile chip without support for Turbo Boost is the i3-2310M, so it will be interesting to see how that compares with current-generation i3 processors. Sandy Bridge should still be faster clock-for-clock than Arrandale/Clarksfield, and pricing on OEM parts might get these down into some very affordable notebooks and laptops. We’ll have to wait and see.
|Intel Mobile Sandy Bridge (LV/ULV)|
|Max SC Turbo||3.2GHz||3.0GHz||2.7GHz||2.6GHz||2.3GHz|
|Max DC Turbo||2.9GHz||2.7GHz||2.4GHz||2.3GHz||2.0GHz|
|Base GFX Freq.||500MHz||500MHz||350MHz||350MHz||350MHz|
|Max GFX Freq.||1100MHz||1100MHz||1000MHz||950MHz||900MHz|
What’s interesting to note about the ULV parts is that even the slowest i5-2537M (yeah, those code names are going to be easy to remember!) comes clocked higher than the outgoing i7-640UM, with more aggressive Turbo modes and a 1W lower TDP. Perhaps we’ll see an M11x R3 with 400M (or 500M?) graphics and one of these ULV chips?
But enough about other products; let’s take a look at the preview system we received and see how this thing stacks up to the current generation notebooks. As this isn’t final hardware, we won’t be focusing all that much on the laptop design and features but will instead concentrate on performance. So, come meet our mobile Sandy Bridge test notebook.
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JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - linkDefinitely a driver bug, and I've passed it along to Intel. The HD 4250 manages 7.7FPS, so SNB ought to be able to get at least 15FPS or so. The game is still a beast, though... some would say poorly written, probably, but I just call it "demanding". LOL
semo - Monday, January 3, 2011 - linkThanks for mentioning USB 3.0 Jarred. It is a much too overlooked essential feature these days. I simply will not pay money for a new laptop in 2011 without a single USB 3.0 port.
dmbfeg2 - Monday, January 3, 2011 - linkWhich tool do you use to check the turbo frequencies under load?
JarredWalton - Monday, January 3, 2011 - linkI had both CPU-Z and the Intel Turbo Monitoring tool up, but neither one supports logging so I have to just eyeball it. The clocks in CPU-Z were generally steady, though it's possible that they would bump up for a few milliseconds and then back down and it simply didn't show up.
Shadowmaster625 - Monday, January 3, 2011 - linkOn the other Sandy Bridge article by Anand, right on the front page, it is mentioned that the 6EU GT1 (HD2000) die has 504M transistors, while the 12EU GT2 (HD 3000) die has 624M transistors. Yet here you are saying HD Graphics 3000 has 114M. If the 12EU version has 120M more transistors than the 6EU version, then does that not imply a total gpu transistor count well north of 200M?
JarredWalton - Monday, January 3, 2011 - linkAFAIK, the 114M figure is for the 12EU core. All of the currently shipping SNB chips are quad-core with the full 12EU on the die, but on certain desktop models Intel disables half the EUs. However, if memory serves there are actually three SNB die coming out. At the top is the full quad-core chip. Whether you have 6EU or 12EU, the die is the same. For the dual-core parts, however, there are two chips. One is a dual-core with 4MB L3 cache and 12EUs, which will also ship in chips where the L3 only shows 3MB. This is the GT1 variant. The other dual-core version is for the ultra-low-cost Pentium brand, which will ship with 6EUs (there will only be 6EU on the die) and no L3 cache, as well as some other missing features (Quick Sync for sure). That's the GT2, and so the missing 120M includes a lot of items.
Note: I might not be 100% correct on this, so I'm going to email Anand and our Intel contact for verification.
mino - Monday, January 3, 2011 - linkNice summary (why was this not in the article ?).
Anyway those 114M do not include memory controller, encoding, display output etc. so the comparison with Redwood/Cedar is not really meaningful.
If you actually insist on comparing transistor counts, semething like (Cedar-Redwood)/3 shall give you a reasonable value of AMD's SPU efficiency from transistors/performance POW.
mino - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link"After all, being able to run a game at all is the first consideration; making it look good is merely the icing on the cake."
If making it look good is merely icing on the cake, why bother with GPUs ? Lets just play 2D Mines!
(While for the poor souls stuck with Intel IGPs it certainly is just the icing, for Christ's sake, that is a major _problem_, not a feature !!!)
After a few pages I have decided to forgo the "best-thing-since-sliced-bread" attitude, but, what is too much is too much...
mino - Monday, January 3, 2011 - linkRegardless the attitude, HUGE thanks for listening to comments and including the older games roundup.
While I'd love to see more games that actually provide playable frame-rates (read: even older ones) on SNB-class IGPs like Far Cry or HL2, even this mini-roundup is a really big plus.
As for a suggestion on future game-playability roundup on IGP's, it is really simple:
1) Take a look at your 2006-2007 GPU benchmarking suites
2) Add in a few current MMORPGs
JarredWalton - Monday, January 3, 2011 - linkAnand covered several other titles, and most of the pre-2007 stuff should run fine (outside of blacklisting problems or bugs). Time constraints limit how much we can test, obviously, but your "reviewer on crack" comment is appreciated. 2D and 3D are completely different, and while you might feel graphical quality is of paramount importance, the fact of the matter is that SNB graphics are basically at the same level as PS3/Xbox 360 -- something millions of users are "okay" with.
NVIDIA and AMD like to show performance at settings where they're barely playable and SNB fails, but that's no better. If "High + 1680x1050" runs at 20FPS with Sandy Bridge vs. 40FPS on discrete mobile GPUs, wouldn't you consider turning down the detail to get performance up? I know I would, and it's the same reason I almost never enable anti-aliasing on laptops: they can't handle it. But if that's what you require, by all means go out and buy more expensive laptops; we certainly don't recommend SNB graphics as the solution for everyone.
Honestly, until AMD gets the Radeon equivalent of Optimus for their GPUs (meaning, AMD GPU + Intel CPU with IGP and automatic switching, plus the ability to update your Radeon and Intel drivers independently), Sandy Bridge + GeForce 400M/500M Optimus is going to be the way to go.