Intel’s Sandy Bridge CPU roadmap leaks

A lot of new number and letter combinations to learn

INTEL’S ROADMAPS NEVER tend to stay secret for long and this time around details of its entire upcoming Sandy Bridge desktop CPU line-up have turned up online, alongside some details of some of the mobile Sandy Bridge processors. This is not quite the entire desktop CPU range for next year from Intel though, as there’s no word on what processors we’ll see for socket 2011.

The leak comes courtesy of German website Computer Base and although things might change slightly before the launch, most of the details look genuine. The site has published detailed specifications of each of the upcoming CPUs, although we can’t vouch for the correctness of these details, as they’re not part of the two roadmap slides that have been posted.

Let’s start with some letter, as Intel has made some changes to its model number scheme. The desktop CPUs will carry K, S, T as their suffixes with K being the same as the current K models, i.e. unlocked BCLK multiplier. The S is similar again to Intel’s current S suffix CPUs, as S stands for energy efficient models with a TDP of 65W rather than 95W, but this also means a lower clock speed. Models with a T on the end have a TDP of a mere 35-45W, albeit at a vastly reduced clock speed.

Intel has also added a fourth digit to its model numbers, so all Sandy Bridge processors will have a four digit model number, plus a potential suffix letter. It seems like Intel has almost completely dropped support for Hyper-Threading on the quad core models, with only the Core i7 LGA-1155 processors having support for it. The Core i7’s are also the only models that will get 8MB of L3 cache. The Core i5’s are divided up between the 2400 and 2500 models, all with 6MB of L3 cache, with the exception of the Core i5 2930T which is a dual core CPU with 3MB L3 cache. Finally the Core i3’s are dual core processors with Hyper-Threading, but no Turbo boost and a mere 3MB of L3 cache.

Judging by this, Intel will only offer two K models, namely the Core i7 2600K and the Core i5 2500K. It will be interesting to see how Intel will price these two models compared to the non K model with the same model number. If the list above is correct, then we’ll see a Core i7 2600S as well, which has a default clock of 2.8GHz instead of 3.4GHz for the other two Core i7 models. However, it’s meant to offer the same Turbo frequency as the 95W TDP models.

The Core i5 models cause some confusion, as there are no less than seven different models, but only three model numbers. The one we don’t get is the dual core Core i5 2390T, as it’s not just the only dual core i5 model, but it’s also a 35W TDP part. The only benefit it appears to have over the Core i3 models is Intel’s Turbo boost, but somehow it doesn’t really seem worth it in a desktop CPU. Intel has made sure it has a lot of space to grow with its new model numbers and there’s no 2200 models being launched at all and most of the 2300 series is also left open for future models.

The new mobile Sandy Bridge processors are no less confusing, as here we’re looking at four Core i7 models and only two Core i5 models, at least for the time being. As you can see from the chart, we’ve an Extreme Edition here which uses the XM suffix. Then we have two quad core models that carries the QM suffix and these alongside the XM model are all quad cores. However, only the 2920XM and the 2820QM come with 8MB of L3 cache while the 2720QM gets to make do with 6MB. The Core i7 2620M on the other hand is a dual core part with Hyper-Threading and 4MB of L3 cache. The Core i5 models are both dual core, but with 3MB of L3 cache, but does otherwise appear to be just slower versions of the Core i7 2620M.

Now it’s of course possible that Intel will launch additional models from this listing and the slides are posted aren’t covering everything. Looking at the slides, it’s certain that there will be more mobile CPUs on offer, as the LV and ULV models are missing. As the desktop slide mostly covers Intel’s business platforms, it’s not clear if we’ll see additional desktop models at launch or not. What the slides do reveal is that Intel appears to be implementing a software remote KVM solution which is most likely intended for remote support access. The Sandy Bridge processors will also feature AES-NI, just like some of Intel’s current processors.

Intel is also throwing in AVX (Advanced Vector Extensions) support that’s mean to boost the performance for specific tasks and it can be seen as the next generation of SSE. Some changes have also been made to Intel’s Turbo Boost feature which has now had 2.0 tacked on to its name and it’s meant to manage clock speeds better than the current implementation. Finally we have Intel’s new IGP which is referred to as “GT2” on the roadmaps, although no other details are given. What has already been made public is the fact that the new IGP will be on die this time, rather than sitting next to the CPU core.

If you thought the current CPU numbering schemes were confusing, then Intel’s new numbering schemes are likely to set your head spinning. We’re not sure why things have to be so confusing, but maybe it’s part of a grander scheme to confuse consumers and make them buy whatever the sales person tells them to and let’s not forget, more numbers means it’s a better product. Keeping things simple might cause people to make educated purchasing decisions and that could be a bad thing, right?S|A

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