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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  • Belard - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    With these intel model numbers, it seems they have hired some people from nVidia?

    Thank AMD for making intel CPUs affordable.

    I own both brands of CHIPS.... and my current main desktop is an Intel Core2Quad, but I've been building AMD systems for most people and since the Phenom II X2~X4 CPUs, I've not had to go with Intel again. I like my system.

    Reliability and compatibility are not an issue with AMD or their soon to be EX-ATI, graphics products.
  • freeman70 - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    Very interesting. I have the same opinion. I have an older overclocked Core2Quad rig (Q6600 overclocked to 3.2GHz) but I have chosen to build cheap AMD systems for friends and family. They honestly can't tell the difference and with the pricing of AMD motherboards with pretty decent IGPs and cheap quad core CPUs like the Athlon X4, it's hard to justify the extra $100 for me to build them an Intel rig with a crappy Intel IGP. However, it seems with Sandy Bridge, Intel will finally provide relatively decent graphics performance. Now, if they just don't price their bloody motherboards components outrangeously. I thought since they were integrating the GPU on package or on die, motherboards would get cheaper because they would only need a single chip instead of the old northbridge/southbridge but motherboards with Intel chipsets just seem to keep increasing in price with no real added value. It will definitely be interesting to see what kind of performance the new series of desktop and mobile CPUs and chipsets from both companies will provide.
  • Thermogenic - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    I'm with you - just built a rig for my Dad and it was using Athlon II X2 with an older 785G DDR2 chipset. With the money I saved from using intel (mostly in the motherboard), I got him a 4850 graphics card. Not state of the art, but the entire build, including an Antec 300 case, was around $400, plus $100 for the Microsoft tax.

    On the low end, AMD is still the best value. For a web surfer, you can build a solid AMD rig running a free operating system for around $325 - not bad at all. An equivalent intel system would be around $400.
  • Jamahl - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    Maybe you want to check the new Mac OS drivers, which already have the full range of 6000 series drivers waiting.

  • danielkza - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    "the only indication that .. .isn't is the letter Q."

    First page, 4th paragraph.
  • LyCannon - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    I think many are overlooking the possibility of writing parallel code on GPU's. I know that nVidia is CUDA, AMD has their "own" type of GPU code, what about Intel?

    Even better, what about Intel, AMD, and nVidia getting together with Microsoft and writing a new DirectX API for general GPU processing.
  • DesktopMan - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    "OpenCL was initially developed by Apple Inc., which holds trademark rights, and refined into an initial proposal in collaboration with technical teams at AMD, IBM, Intel, and Nvidia."

    They already got together and made OpenCL, which in contrast to DirectX is quite platform independent.

    Why Intel hasn't implemented it on their own GPUs yet is anyone's guess.
  • chizow - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    The "Why hasn't Intel jumped onboard with OpenCL" should be glaringly obvious, its a threat to their x86 stranglehold on the desktop and server markets and the emerging HPC market everyone wants a piece of.

    A platform/architecture agnostic programming language marginalizes the importance and reliance on x86, and while Intel is a fully paid-in contributing member of the Khronos Group that oversees the OpenCL spec, they're really just there to monitor its progress imo.

    They're instead promoting their own parallel programming language, Ct, that will of course leverage and promote Intel's own compilers and x86 architecture.

    Similarly, Microsoft is absent from participating in the Khronos Group/OpenCL, as it provides a threat to their own proprietary APIs like DirectX/DirectCompute.
  • rootheday - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    I believe Intel must have some sort of parallel GPU support - see

    Toshiba's Resolution+ is a proprietary video processing upscaling technology. It apparently works on Intel HD graphics in Core i3/i5/i7 today.
  • synaesthetic - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    The primary reason that the current MBP13 is using Penryn instead of Arrandale is due to Intel HD Graphics' lack of OpenCL support.

    Apple is definitely gearing up to use AMD processors and GPUs.

    And AMD products aren't rubbish. Their new quad-core mobile processors are absolutely on par with the high-end Mobile i3 and Mobile i5 chips from Intel, consume the same amount of power, have better integrated graphics... and are cheaper.

    If I hadn't bought my laptop when I did, I'd probably be using a lappy with one of those mobile quad Phenoms.

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