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CPU Performance, Branding & Availability

Graphics and multimedia aside Sandy Bridge will be no slouch in the CPU department either. More than 20 new mobile and desktop chips will be released with immediate effect and clock for clock they will be 10 to 15 per cent faster than last gen Core processors.

Combined with the GPU performance and chip-level acceleration and Intel was able to pull out stats such as 69 per cent and 62 per cent overall increases in the performance of complex Excel calculations and Slideshow creation respectively compared to previous flagship the Core i7 Q840QM. These figures leap to 831 per cent and 333 per cent when put against a three year old Core 2 duo T7250. Sandy Bridge also finally makes EFI (the Extensive Firmware Interface) compulsory meaning new graphical and Internet upgradeable bioses.

"Over 1m PCs per day were shipped in 2010" declared Otellini. "More than 247bn emails are sent per day {80 per cent is spam incidently}, two billion YouTube videos viewed daily and over two million minutes of video uploaded daily. 2.5 billion photos per month are uploaded to Facebook alone. The role of the PC is changing and Sandy Bridge will bring about its next evolution".

So all is perfect with Sandy Bridge and we should ignore anything else, right? No - as always - there are a few caveats. The first is AMD is finally getting its act together with ATI and releasing Fusion, its own CPU/GPU chips later in the year. The second is while you may want a Sandy Bridge system (and with more than 500 design wins there should be plenty floating around) it may be hard to tell if the PC you have your eye on actually has one.

This is because Intel continues to make a pig's ear out of its branding with no name change made to the already confusing Core i3, i5 and i7 lines. Instead you'll need to look for two things: the first is a slightly different logo since Sandy Bridge processors show the logo cracked in the middle with the silicon pictured underneath while current logos have the silicon revealed by the logo peeling off.

The second is you'll find Sandy Bridge parts are four digits long, so whereas you'd previously have the Core i7 980X you'll now see, for example, the Core i5 2500k. Yes for "the best product we've ever built and the most exciting product we've ever built" you'd think there would be a little more of a marketing fanfare.

That said Sandy Bridge certainly is one of the most important products in recent years. On a purely technical level they are mind boggling fitting 1.16bn transistors on a chip (you'd find 2,500 transistors under the footprint of a human hair) and their graphics performance is 25x that of Intel integrated graphics just four years ago.

We'll be taking a closer look at Sandy Bridge PCs soon, but safe to say if you got a new computer for Christmas we offer our condolences. On the other hand, if you've been waiting to upgrade your machine then it's time to get your wallet out.

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