Intel Core i7-2820QM Mobile Sandy Bridge Processor - HotHardware

Intel Core i7-2820QM Mobile Sandy Bridge Processor

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If you've been around long enough to remember Intel's 486 processor, you just have to marvel at the level of integration on the modern day CPU, whether you consider Intel or AMD's latest.  8MB of cache, four full execution cores and an integrated memory controller; these functional blocks alone offer orders of magnitude more on-chip resources than the basic function devices of yesteryear.  And the very fact that they're resident, on-die, versus requiring system-level communication to access them, makes these processing elements even faster.

Intel Sandy Bridge Die Map

The most significant integration effort for Intel with Sandy Bridge of course, was to integrate their graphics core on die which meant the architecture would have to undergo a process migration from the previous generation Arrandale 45nm graphics core to the new 32nm technology found on the main processor die itself.  As you can see, along with its logic and memory structures, the Intel HD Graphics 3000 core found on the Core i7-2820QM consumes a large chunk of die real estate.  Another note-worthy design change here is that the chip's shared L3 cache is also now available to the graphics core for lightning-fast local memory access.


At the system level, Intel's new notebook platform architecture based on Sandy Bridge and the H67 Express chipset, is also a two chip solution like Arrandale was configured.  The processor has 16 PCI Express 2.0 lanes available as well as a dual channel DDR3 memory controller capable of speeds up to 1333MHz.  Intel's H67 Express chip offers the rest of the IO functionality for the system, including 6 SATA ports with option RAID capability, a Gigabit Ethernet MAC, display interface interfaces for HDMI, DVI and Displayport, as well as eight channel HD audio and eight additional PCI Express 2.0 lanes.  Unfortunately the platform has been delivered sans USB 3.0 or 6Gps SATA connectivity at this juncture, which seems like an oversight but when you consider how long these chips have probably been in design, it's almost hard to fault Intel for the omission; we said almost.  This is Intel we're talking about after all, right?



Finally, here's a quick look at Intel's Sandy Bridge Mobile roadmap moving forward.  Dual-core and quad-core variants will replace Arrandale and Clarksfield versions starting in Q1 2011.

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Holy Cow!! Wow, this chip is just freaking amazing!! I knew I had to stay awake a little longer tonight!

Amazing performance for this particular model over the last generation extreme mobile processor, plus better price, this just smokes everything else from the past generation.

WOW, 3.1 GHz on full load on all cores, 3.3 and two cores, 800ghz on Idle, incredible.

Quick Sync....Geezus!!

Edit: Excellent Review Dave!!

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Nice Review Dave!! Cant wait for these things to come out!! I am in the market for a HP TM2T type device and it would be a great match for it!!

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Thanks folks! Yeah, these are impressive chips to be sure!

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Looks like another pacesetter from Intel. I would love to be in the market for a new Laptop, and have the cash to get one of them, but it would have to have discrete graphics on it .

Sandy Bridge is impressive.

AMD, it's your turn,............

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Hmm; I would say yes and no for me personally, because of a couple of factors. Personally I do not forgive the SATA, and USB3 exclusion.  This is for a specific reason though as well as because they are missing. I am not saying I do not appreciate the chip, and capabilities of it. I am just saying on a personal level because I know in 6 months those will be included as well as more functionality. The more functionality also includes there new comm interface software/hardware as I think it is scheduled to be out in 6 as well on there boards, as is there new BIOS scheme on the PC side of things I think. With that in mind I could comfortably say I won't be buying an Intel processor for at least a year or on the next tock, not tick:)

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>> AMD, it's your turn,............

Exactly what I was thinking, RealNeil.

I do expect the AMD solution to perform better graphically. But, as both are still significantly behind an actual video card, I think I'd prefer the Intel solution for the desktop (and maybe the AMD in a laptop - if the hype doesn't turn out to be overinflated).

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3vi1:
as both are still significantly behind an actual video card
  Good Point!

There is a lot to be said for a discrete Video Card. Swapping them as we see fit, and upgrading them when we can afford to, (without replacing major components like your CPU and MainBoard) is a huge plus for gamers. For me, it's a concept that will probably live on forever.

It seems as though Sandy's brought some improved performance to the table that will please more of the masses. The video trans-coding capability must have been a target for Intel to go after this time around and they seem to have it nailed. All in all I think that they'll sell well, but I'm hoping that AMD throws down the gauntlet soon and gets a larger piece of the pie. We really need them around to help keep prices under control.

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Very nice review Dave, these are really interesting chips.  These will really make a big improvement over the 720 in my current laptop when I’m looking at upgrading later this year. 

However, the use of the phrase "Orders of magnitude" within the review makes no sense.  Orders would imply at least two, which would come out to a x100 increase in performance.  In the test that the phrase was used, not even a single order of magnitude (x10) was reached.  Maybe it is just the engineer in me, but that one phrase just seems to torque me the wrong way.  Great review otherwise.

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