Late last week we pulled back the covers on Intel's next-generation Core architecture update: Sandy Bridge. Due out in Q1 2011, we learned a lot about Sandy Bridge's performance in our preview. Sandy Bridge will be the first high performance monolithic CPU/GPU from Intel. Its performance was generally noticeably better than the present generation of processors, both on the CPU and GPU side. If you haven't read the preview by now, I'd encourage you to do so.

One of the questions we got in response to the article was: what about Sandy Bridge for notebooks? While Sandy Bridge is pretty significant for mainstream quad-core desktops, it's even more tailored to the notebook space. I've put together some spec and roadmap information for those of you who might be looking for a new notebook early next year.

Mobile Sandy Bridge

Like the desktop offering, mobile Sandy Bridge will arrive sometime in Q1 of next year. If 2010 was any indication of what's to come, we'll see both mobile and desktop parts launch at the same time around CES.

The mobile Sandy Bridge parts are a little more straightforward in some areas but more confusing in others. The biggest problem is that both dual and quad-core parts share the same brand; in fact, the letter Q is the only indication that the Core i7 2720QM is a quad-core and the Core i7 2620M isn't. Given AMD's Bulldozer strategy, I'm sure Intel doesn't want folks worrying about how many cores they have - just that higher numbers mean better things.

Mobile Sandy Bridge CPU Comparison
  Base Frequency L3 Cache Cores / Threads Max Single Core Turbo Memory Support Intel Graphics EUs Intel HD Graphics Frequency / Max Turbo TDP
Core i7 2920XM 2.5GHz 8MB 4 / 8 3.5GHz DDR3-1600 12 650 / 1300MHz 55W
Core i7 2820QM 2.3GHz 8MB 4 / 8 3.4GHz DDR3-1600 12 650 / 1300MHz 45W
Core i7 2720QM 2.2GHz 6MB 4 / 8 3.3GHz DDR3-1600 12 650 / 1300MHz 45W
Core i7 2620M 2.7GHz 4MB 2 / 4 3.4GHz DDR3-1600 12 650 / 1300MHz 35W
Core i5 2540M 2.6GHz 3MB 2 / 4 3.3GHz DDR3-1333 12 650 / 1150MHz 35W
Core i5 2520M 2.5GHz 3MB 2 / 4 3.2GHz DDR3-1333 12 650 / 1150MHz 35W

You'll notice a few changes compared to the desktop lineup. Clock speeds are understandably lower, and all launch parts have Hyper Threading enabled. Mobile Sandy Bridge also officially supports up to DDR3-1600 while the desktop CPUs top out at DDR3-1333 (though running them at 1600 shouldn't be a problem assuming you have a P67 board).

The major difference between mobile Sandy Bridge and its desktop countpart is all mobile SB launch SKUs have two graphics cores (12 EUs), while only some desktop parts have 12 EUs (it looks like the high-end K SKUs will have it). The base GPU clock is lower but it can turbo up to 1.3GHz, higher than most desktop Sandy Bridge CPUs. Note that the GPU we tested in Friday's preview had 6 EUs, so mobile Sandy Bridge should be noticeably quicker as long as we don't run into memory bandwidth issues. Update: Our preview article may have actually used a 12 EU part, we're still trying to confirm!

Even if we only get 50% more performance out of the 12 EU GPU, that'd be enough for me to say that there's no need for discrete graphics in a notebook - as long as you don't use it for high-end gaming.

While Arrandale boosted multithreaded performance significantly, Sandy Bridge is going to offer an across the board increase in CPU performance and a dramatic increase in GPU performance. And from what I've heard, NVIDIA's Optimus technology will work with the platform in case you want to do some serious gaming on your notebook.

The Roadmap
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  • Doormat - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    Can I get more info on why SB doesn't support opencl? Is it intel drivers or the hardware just can't do it? That's incredibly disappointing. I was hoping for a 13"'MBP but it doesn't look like it'll happen.
  • Mike1111 - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    Even if it's only a driver problem, will Sandy Bridge's GPU be able to offer at least the same OpenCL performance as the current Nvidia solution? Because IMHO Apple won't tolerate a slower GPU (in regards to OpenCL) in a newer MacBook Pro.
  • B3an - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    It's for the best. Now you'll get a real and fully capable laptop/OS instead, thats probably faster too, for the same money that would have gone into that Macbook.
  • Roland00 - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    Where they differ though is how they switch. Nvidia Optimus (unlike Nvidia Switchable and ATI switchable) does not require you to log out to switch. Furthermore Nvidia Optimus is a software switch that automatically switches based off the program used, while Nvidia Switchable (still used on some older designs like the Z series Sony) and ATI Switchable requires the user to tell the computer to switch graphics.

    Now ATI is working on a similar solution as Nvidia Optimus, and Mac has created their own version (with their own IP) of Nvidia Optimus.

    So yes Intel will allow you to switch graphics with Sandy Bridge just like you can do so with Nehalem but how it is implemented is up to other companies such as ATI and NVIDIA.
  • Thermogenic - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    Small correction - switchable graphics do not force you to log out to switch, that's a limitation artificially placed on the user by Apple. I switch my Alienware m11x all the time, and technically prefer that to the Optimus method, although I'm sure most non-techie users prefer optimus.

    As another user posted, the biggest gain from Optimus is nVidia driver support.
  • Roland00 - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    that was an error on my part. Prior switchable graphics before Optimus either required a logout/reboot or had an interposer that was a "combined" driver of "intel and nvidia" or "ati and ati." The interposer forced you to use specific drivers developed by your oem and was rarely update and sometimes it simply didn't work. Jared talked about it here when he was introducing the review of optimus.
  • Stuka87 - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    So just what do you do for a living that allows you to put yourself up on a pedestal above AMD's engineers? Have you worked with them and therefore have first hand knowledge?

    Your comments seems very narrow minded regardless of your background though.
  • StevoLincolnite - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    "Because, since all of AMD's engineers are fools, AMD's products will not work appropriately. Only AMDiots will buy those crappy products."

    I must say... "Wow".

    And here I thought the fanboys moved from Intel/AMD/nVidia/ATI and onto the PC vs Mac debate, seems I was mistaken.

    sans2212, you are an idiot. - I would like to see you create a multi-billion dollar company if you think you can do better than AMD, seriously.

    Until then... Grow up and get a clue and stop being an incompetent, ignorant, moronic, douche.
  • gfody - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    best ignore them
  • bennyg - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    Steve Irwin made a career of hitting stupid animals with a stick and look what happened to him.

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