Sandy Bridge is the codename of a microarchitecture for microprocessors developed by Intel as Westmere and Nahalem’s successor. Also called “second generation” Intel first showed a Sandy Bridge processor back in 2009 and launched the first Sandy Bridge-based processor to the market in 2011.

Since then, processors like the i7-2600K have become some of the most popular and iconic in Intel’s history over the last decade. The revolutionary design offered a considerable update regarding single core performance, efficiency, and ability to overclock.

Sandy Bridge was a notable evolution over Nehalem and Westmere with a significant number of technical changes but keeping the Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 monicker in their low, medium and high end models respectively. Another interesting change was that the numeration of the models went from hundreds to millions.

Sandy Bridge CPU’s Physical  Changes Over Time 

The LGA 1155 was one of the biggest physical changes in the Sandy Bridge generation. The addition of a new chipset generation and upgrade of the integrated GPU in these that went to be a part of the processor itself like it was another processing core were revolutionary at the time.

Sandy Bridge promised better power efficiency, performance and Turbo Boost upgrades, integrations of the Turbo Boost with the GPU, better graphic performance, a new group of AVX instructions (Advanced Vector Extension), coding and decoding algorithm optimization for video which made it them the best processors in the market at that time.

Better Performance, Lower Power 

Intel’s Core i7-2600K was the highest quad-core design that was used as base processor to launch Sandy Bridge cpu. Eventually, it became a staple through the next five generations of architecture for Intel, all the way through from Ivy Bridge, Haswell, Broadwell, Skylake, and Kaby Lake.

11.3% increase in performance over Nehalem.

5% decrease in power consumption as well.

Since Sandy Bridge, while Intel has moved to smaller process nodes and taken advantage of lower power, it has been unable to recreate that singular jump in raw instruction throughput. With incremental 1-7% increases year on year, using that power budget to increase operational buffers, execution ports, and instruction support.

Sandy Bridge Performance Test in 2019

The tech pros at AnandTech recently wrote about the Core i7-2600K in a detail article where they test the iconic processor with current performance benchmarks against newer models to see if it actually stood the test of time.

AnandTech’s 2019 test of the Sandy Bridge processor measured CPU Performance wit System Tests, Rendering Tests, Office Tests, Encoding Tests, Web and Legacy Tests as well as testing the processor with multiple games like Final Fantasy XV, Civilization 6, Strange Brigade, Grand Theft Auto V, Far Cry 5, Shadow of the Tomb Raider and F1 2018. Power Consumption was also tested for updated results.

We’ve gathered the highlight of the test but If you want to read the full review click here

These were the results from AnandTech’s test:

CPU Test: 

On our CPU tests, the Core i7-2600K when overclocked to a 4.7 GHz all-core frequency (and with DDR3-2400 memory) offers anywhere from 10-24% increase in performance against the stock settings with Intel maximum supported frequency memory. However, when compared to the Core i7-7700K, Intel’s final quad-core with HyperThreading processor, users were able to get another 8-29% performance on top of that. 

As for the Core i7-9700K, which has eight full cores and now sits in the spot of Intel’s best Core i7 processor, performance gains are much more tangible. It almost doubled in a lot of cases against an overclocked Core i7-2600K (and more than doubled against one at stock).

The CPU case is clear: Intel’s last quad core with hyperthreading is an obvious upgrade for a 2600K user, even before you overclock it, and the 9700K which is almost the same launch price parity, is definitely an easy sell. The gaming side of the equation isn’t so rosy though.

GPU test:

For our gaming benchmarks, we test with four test settings on each game (720p, 1080p, 1440p-4K, and 4K+) using a GTX 1080, which is one of last generations of high-end gaming card. It’s Something that a number of Core i7 users might own for high-end gaming.

With modern games at older resolutions like 1080p, we do see a sizable gain when the 2600K is overclocked. A 22% gain in frame rates from a 34% overclock sounds more than reasonable to any high-end focused gamer. Intel only managed to improve on that by 12% over the next few years to the Core i7-7700K, relying mostly on frequency gains.

However, all those gains are muted at a higher resolutions setting, such as 1440p. Going from an overclocked 2600K to a brand new 9700K only gives a 9% increase in frame rates for modern games. At an enthusiast 4K setting, the results across the board are almost equal. As resolutions are getting higher, even with modern physics and instructions and APIs, the bulk of the workload is still on the GPU, and even the Core i7-2600K is powerful enough for it. There is the odd title where having the newer chip helps a lot more, but it’s in the minority.

Final thoughts

Intel made a great leap ahead with a piece of hardware that was far and above anything we’ve seen, especially when compared with previous Pentium 4 models. Sandy Bridge marked a turning point in performance on x86 which took AMD another eight years to catch up with its Ryzen series.

As tests show, its great popularity was no coincidence, with people still happily using Sandy Bridge processors even today.


Chief Tech writer at Serverpronto. Helping businesses grow with useful tech information.

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