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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  • synaesthetic - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    Optimus is a totally different animal than normal hybrid graphics switching.

    In normal switchable graphics, you have to have extra hardware components--multiplexers--to switch the data moving from each GPU to the display.

    With Optimus, nvidia skipped this step by having the data spat out by the discrete GPU copied over to the IGP, which is always connected to the display. This *does* mean that the IGP is always on (and the discrete GPU is only on when it's used) but it means that switching can be totally seamless.

    Driver support is the thing that bothers me the most. With Optimus you don't have to worry, because Optimus drivers are baked right into nvidia's Verde package. With other switchable graphics, there is an issue for driver compatibility there.

    I hope AMD nails down a switchable graphics standard soon so that we don't have to worry about driver issues with AMD switchable graphics.
  • GTVic - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    The 2820 and 2620 would seem to be good choice for a mobile workstation but the current i7-620M and i7-720QM are also 35W and 45W respectively so not much power saving but maybe there is some saving with the integrated graphics???. Would be nice to get more battery time on a mobile workstation and less weight?
  • erple2 - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    TDP only gives a mild understanding of power consumption, not in how much power the CPU uses in practice. The power numbers of the desktop parts share the same TDP as the previous socket 1156 CPUs, but pull less power under load...
  • Roland00 - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    One reason that I can see Intel putting a dedicated part of the cpu related to transcoding is due to Intel eventually doing a big push for Intel Wireless Display. The 1st gen of the technology has been out for a little over 6 months. It is limited to 1280x800 or lower resolutions at 30fps at a range of 20ft (line of sight.)

    With dedicated transcoding intel can possibly compress the video stream on the fly and send it to the proprietary receiver that is hooked up to the TV via component or hdmi. With the right compression it is possible in theory to get 1080p at 30fps with a decent bit rate if everything works correctly. The problem is that many companies have tried so far, and to my knowledge no one's solution works correctly 98% of the time. Hopefully Intel can get this up to the 98%.
  • Overmind - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Apple will probably go for Radeons.
  • silverblue - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    There's always one, isn't there?
  • ClagMaster - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    How am I going to compare the performance of these new processors with the Q6600 on a G965 chipset since all of the benchmarks have changed?

    I upgrade after the following preconditions apply:

    1) I have owned my current PC for 3 years and have recouped my investment
    2) I can upgrade to new equipment that has double the capacity for the same cost.
    3) The power draw is the same or less.

    You need to compare some popular CPU's such as the socket 775 Q6600 and Q9650 to give upgraders a clearer picture of what the REAL performance gains are over the legacy hardware
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - link

    I believe Anandtech does this at every new RELEASE of major hardware. I seem to remember comparison charts of old-school P4 and single/dual core Athlon systems put in to give a good idea of how much improved the WHOLE PLATFORM performs. Since these last 2 SandyBridge articles are basically previews it makes sense that there isn't a more detailed comparison.

    But I do agree it needs to happen. I think we can safely ditch the P4 numbers and have the bottom-tier be single/dual Athlon XP systems (and even that is pretty darn old), then have a Q6600 based system, and finally a Nehelem based system. That should give a good idea of improvements in both performance and power consumption.
  • ClagMaster - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - link

    Thank you.

    Adding some popular processors such as the Q6600 would be beneficial.
  • name99 - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    FWIW C-Net, in this article,
    claims that SB does have OpenCL 1.1 support.

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