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Intel’s Sandy Bridge Revealed: Core i5-2500K & i7-2600K Reviewed
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by Rob Williams on January 3, 2011 in Intel Processors

The long-awaited launch of Intel’s Sandy Bridge is here, and we have all of the details of what to expect, what you need to “upgrade”, what models will be available at launch, and of course, their prices. We’re taking a look at two of the higest-end offerings, the Core i5-2500K and i7-2600K – both quad-cores and both fully unlocked.

Test System & Methodology

At Techgage, we strive to make sure our results are as accurate as possible. Our testing is rigorous and time-consuming, but we feel the effort is worth it. In an attempt to leave no question unanswered, this page contains not only our testbed specifications, but also a fully-detailed look at how we conduct our testing.

If there is a bit of information that we’ve omitted, or you wish to offer thoughts or suggest changes, please feel free to shoot us an e-mail or post in our forums.

Test System

The table below lists the hardware for our two current machines, which remains unchanged throughout all testing, with the exception of the processor. Each CPU used for the sake of comparison is also listed here, along with the BIOS version of the motherboard used. In addition, each one of the URLs in this table can be clicked to view the respective review of that product, or if a review doesn’t exist, you will be led to the product on the manufacturer’s website.

Please note that for benchmarking the Core i7-980X, we deviated from the Rampage II Extreme that we tested all other Bloomfield’s with in favor of taking Gigabyte’s X58A-UD5 for a spin. This motherboard change won’t effect the performance, but it will change the power consumption just a wee bit. As mentioned before, we’re in the process of upgrading our entire CPU test suite, and the X58A-UD5 will become the base of our new LGA1366 test platform.

Component
AMD AM2+/AM3 Test System
Processors

AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition – Quad-Core, 3.40GHz, 1.325v
AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition – Quad-Core, 3.20GHz, 1.325v
AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition – Tri-Core, 2.80GHz, 1.325v
AMD Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition – Dual-Core, 3.20GHz, 1.325v

AMD Athlon II X4 635 – Quad-Core, 2.90GHz, 1.325v
AMD Athlon II X4 620 – Quad-Core, 2.60GHz, 1.375v
AMD Athlon II X3 435 – Tri-Core, 2.90GHz, 1.325v
AMD Athlon II X2 240e – Dual-Core, 2.80GHz, 1.325v
Motherboard
Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4H – 790GX-based, F3 BIOS (01/13/09)
Memory

Corsair XMS3 DHX 2x2GB – DDR3-1333 7-7-7-20-2T, 1.65v
Graphics
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage
Power Supply
Chassis
Display
Cooling
Et cetera

Component
Intel LGA1155 Test System
Processors Intel Core i7-2600K – Quad-Core, 3.40GHz, ~1.05v
Intel Core i5-2500K – Quad-Core, 3.30GHz, ~1.05v
Motherboard
ASUS P8P67 Deluxe (0907 BIOS, 12/23/2010)
Memory
Corsair XMS3 DHX 2x2GB – DDR3-1333 7-7-7-20-2T, 1.65v
Graphics
ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB (Catalyst 8.11)
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage
Power Supply
Chassis
Display
Cooling
Intel BXXTS100H CPU Cooler
Et cetera

Component
Intel LGA1156 Test System
Processors Intel Core i7-870K – Quad-Core, 2.93GHz, ~1.25v
Intel Core i7-870 – Quad-Core, 2.93GHz, ~1.25v
Intel Core i5-750 – Quad-Core, 2.66GHz, ~1.25v
Intel Core i5-665K – Dual-Core, 3.20GHz, ~1.25v
Intel Core i5-661 – Dual-Core, 3.33GHz, ~1.10v
Intel Core i3-530 – Dual-Core, 2.93GHz, ~1.00v
Motherboard
Lynnfield: Gigabyte P55-UD5 – P55-based, F3 BIOS (08/01/09)
Westmere: ASUS P7H55D-M EVO – H55-based, 0503 BIOS (12/02/09)
Memory

Corsair XMS3 DHX 2x2GB – DDR3-1333 7-7-7-20-2T, 1.65v
Graphics
ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB (Catalyst 8.11)
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage
Power Supply
Chassis
Display
Cooling
Thermalright MUX-120
Et cetera

Component
Intel LGA1366 Test System
Processors

Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition
Six-Core, 3.33GHz, 1.30v
Intel Core i7-975 Extreme Edition – Quad-Core, 3.33GHz, 1.30v
Intel Core i7-920 Quad-Core, 2.66GHz, 1.30v
Motherboard
ASUS Rampage II Extreme – X58-based, 0705 BIOS (11/21/08)
Gigabyte X58A-UD5 – X58-based, F4 BIOS (02/12/10)
(Gigabyte’s board used only for Core i7-980X)
Memory

OCZ Gold 3x2GB – DDR3-1066 7-7-7-20-1T, 1.56v (920/940)
OCZ Gold 3x2GB – DDR3-1600 7-7-7-20-1T, 1.56v (965/975/980X)
Graphics
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage
Power Supply
Chassis
Display
Cooling
Et cetera

Component
Intel LGA775
Processors

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 – Quad-Core, 3.00GHz, 1.30v (Sim)
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 – Dual-Core, 3.00GHz, 1.30v
Motherboard
ASUS Rampage Extreme – X48-based, 0501 BIOS (08/28/08)
Memory

Corsair XMS3 DHX 2x2GB – DDR3-1333 7-7-7-15-1T, 1.91v (1333FSB)
Corsair XMS3 DHX 2x2GB – DDR3-1066 6-6-6-15-1T, 1.91v (1066FSB)
Corsair XMS3 DHX 2x2GB – DDR3-800 6-6-6-15-1T, 1.91v (800FSB)

Graphics
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage
Power Supply
Chassis
Display
Cooling
Et cetera

(Sim) represents models that were tested using a faster, but under-clocked processor. For example, for the Q9550, we used the QX9770, since the specs are identical all-around, except for the clock speeds. Those were adjusted appropriately, effectively giving us a Q9550 to test with.

When preparing our testbeds for any type of performance testing, we follow these guidelines:

    General Guidelines

  • No power-saving options are enabled in the motherboard’s BIOS.
  • Internet is disabled.
  • No Virus Scanner or Firewall is installed.
  • The OS is kept clean; no scrap files are left in between runs.
  • Hard drives affected are defragged with Diskeeper 2008 prior to a fresh benchmarking run.
  • Machine has proper airflow and the room temperature is 80°F (27°C) or less.
    Windows Vista Optimizations

  • User Account Control (UAC) and screen saver are disabled.
  • Windows Defender, Firewall, Security Center, Search, Sidebar and Updates are disabled.

To aide with the goal of keeping accurate and repeatable results, we alter certain services in Windows Vista from starting up at boot. This is due to the fact that these services have the tendency to start up in the background without notice, potentially causing slightly inaccurate results. Disabling “Windows Search” turns off the OS’ indexing which can at times utilize the hard drive and memory more than we’d like.

Application Benchmarks

To help test out the real performance benefits of a given processor, we run a large collection of both real-world and synthetic benchmarks, including 3ds Max, Adobe Lightroom, TMPGEnc Xpress, Sandra 2009 and many more.

Our ultimate goal is always to find out which processor excels in a given scenario and why. Running all of the applications in our carefully-chosen suite can help better give us answers to those questions. Aside from application data, we also run two common games to see how performance scales there, including Call of Duty 4 and Half-Life 2: Episode Two.

Game Benchmarks

In an attempt to offer “real-world” results, we do not utilize timedemos in any of our reviews. Each game in our test suite is benchmarked manually, with the minimum and average frames-per-second (FPS) captured with the help of FRAPS 2.9.5.

To deliver the best overall results, each title we use is exhaustively explored in order to find the best possible level in terms of intensiveness and replayability. Once a level is chosen, we play through repeatedly to find the best possible route and then in our official benchmarking, we stick to that route as close as possible. Since we are not robots and the game can throw in minor twists with each run, no run can be identical to the pixel.

Each game and setting combination is tested twice, and if there is a discrepancy between the initial results, the testing is repeated until we see results we are confident with.

The two games we currently use for our motherboard reviews are listed below, with direct screenshots of the game’s setting screens and explanations of why we chose what we did.

Call of Duty: World at War

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Crysis Warhead

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Half-Life 2: Episode Two

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2560×1600