Sandy Bridge means new mobile goodness, too


— 2:38 AM on January 3, 2011

Although Intel's last-minute decision to pull the Sandy Bridge launch forward forced us to concentrate on desktop versions, the company has also announced a whole family of notebook-bound processors based on its new architecture. I've got a notebook featuring one of those CPUs sitting next to me as I write this, and I'll have a review for you guys soon—I promise. Right now, though, let's have a quick look at the mobile Sandy Bridge lineup.

Intel has simultaneously announced a whopping 15 mobile offerings. These CPUs are priced between $225 and $1096 and fit into three categories: regular-voltage models with TDPs of 35-45W, regular-voltage "transactional SKUs" that will only be available in pre-built systems, and low-voltage models with TDPs of 17-25W. If you look past market segmentation and at the hardware itself, the mobile Sandy Bridge lineup is made up of two different silicon chips: a quad-core, eight-thread one and a dual-core, quad-thread design.

Here are the standard-voltage offerings:

Model Cores/
threads
Base core
clock speed
Peak Turbo
clock speed
L3 cache
size
DDR3 speed TDP Price
Core i7-2920XM 4/8 2.5 GHz 3.5 GHz 8 MB 1600 MHz 55W $1096
Core i7-2820QM 4/8 2.3 GHz 3.4 GHz 8 MB 1600 MHz 45W $568
Core i7-2720QM 4/8 2.2 GHz 3.3 GHz 6 MB 1600 MHz 45W $378
Core i7-2620M 2/4 2.7 GHz 3.4 GHz 4 MB 1333 MHz 35W $346
Core i5-2540M 2/4 2.6 GHz 3.3 GHz 3 MB 1333 MHz 35W $266
Core i5-2520M 2/4 2.5 GHz 3.2 GHz 3 MB 1333 MHz 35W $225

The four chips below are what Intel calls "transactional SKUs," which we're told "typically fulfill narrow OEM segmentation/channel needs." In other words, you won't see these in retail boxes, but they'll probably make an appearance in systems from big PC vendors.

Model Cores/
threads
Base core
clock speed
Peak Turbo
clock speed
L3 cache
size
DDR3 speed TDP Price
Core i7-2635QM 4/8 2.0 GHz 2.9 GHz 6 MB 1333 MHz 45W N/A
Core i7-2630QM 4/8 2.0 GHz 2.9 GHz 6 MB 1333 MHz 45W N/A
Core i5-2410M 2/4 2.3 GHz 2.9 GHz 3 MB 1333 MHz 35W N/A
Core i3-2310M 2/4 2.1 GHz N/A 3 MB 1333 MHz 35W N/A

Incidentally, these OEM-only models are the only mobile Sandy Bridge parts to lack Intel vPro support, Trusted Execution Technology (TXT), and AES-NI instructions, which speed up AES data encryption.

Finally, we have the low-voltage offerings:

Model Cores/
threads
Base core
clock speed
Peak Turbo
clock speed
L3 cache
size
DDR3 speed TDP Price
Core i7-2649M 2/4 2.3 GHz 3.2 GHz 4 MB 1333 MHz 25W $346
Core i7-2629M 2/4 2.1 GHz 3.0 GHz 4 MB 1333 MHz 25W $311
Core i7-2657M 2/4 1.6 GHz 2.7 GHz 4 MB 1333 MHz 17W $317
Core i7-2617M 2/4 1.5 GHz 2.6 GHz 4 MB 1333 MHz 17W $289
Core i5-2537M 2/4 1.4 GHz 2.3 GHz 3 MB 1333 MHz 17W $250

What about successors to today's Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage CPUs? You're looking at them. Intel has decided to tear down the wall between CULV and ULV, combining them into a single nation of low-voltage mobile processors. I find the consolidation welcome, in light of the rather arbitrary naming scheme and somewhat blurry separation between past CULV and ULV offerings. Things look much simpler with the new silicon, even if prices are a wee bit higher. (For reference, the dual-core Celeron SU2300 sells for $134 in bulk quantities according to Intel's price list, although it is admittedly a couple of generations old now.)

It's worth noting that all the chips listed above feature Intel HD Graphics 3000, the full-featured variant of Sandy Bridge's integrated graphics component with 12 execution units and 48 ALUs. The only differences, as far as I can see, lie with graphics clock speeds. All standard-voltage chips have a base graphics speed of 650MHz, while the 25W mobile parts are limited to 500MHz, and the 17W ones are stuck at 350MHz. Maximum dynamic graphics speeds vary, too: standard-voltage models can push their graphics cores to 1300MHz, while the OEM-only offerings reach 1100-1200MHz, and the low-voltage chips top out at 950-1100MHz.

So, when can we expect to see shiny new Sandy Bridge laptops on store shelves? Soon. Last we spoke, Intel told us that all quad-core offerings are available immediately, while dual-core ones will follow four to five weeks later—mid-February, in other words.

The review system Intel sent me is a big honkin' 17" contraption, but I'm excited to see what ultra-thin designs the low-voltage Sandy variants end up driving. We're told those will be as thin as 0.8", and judging by the desktop power consumption results, I'm sure battery life won't be too shabby, either. At the same time, the presence of Hyper-Threading and the rather high peak Turbo speeds will likely translate into excellent performance.

Tip: You can use the A/Z keys to walk threads.
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