Intel Core i7-2600K and i5-2500K Processors Debut

HD Graphics and Media Encoding


One of the stand-out features of Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processors is its integrated DX10.1 graphics core. The graphics core that incorporated into Sandy Bridge is a significant step up from any other graphics product Intel has every introduced. With that said, it is not a replacement for a mid-range or high-end discrete graphics card, but it does offer feature and enough performance to satisfy a significant portion of the market.

Sandy Bridge based Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processor will feature one of two graphics core configurations, Intel HD Graphics 2000 or Intel HD Graphics 3000. The two differ only in their number of execution units, or cores. Intel HD Graphics will have 6 EUs enabled, while HD 3000 Graphics will have 12. The graphics cores on the different processors will also differ in their peak frequencies as well. For example, the Core i5-2500K has a peak graphics core frequency of 1100MHz, while the Core i7-2600K’s graphics core can hit up to 1350MHz.

All Sandy Bridge based K SKUs will feature the Intel HD Graphics 3000 core. Non-K SKUs will feature Intel HD Graphics 2000. If you ask us, this is somewhat backwards. K SKU buyers are more likely to use a discrete GPU, than standard CPU buyers. You’d think it would be more beneficial if the standard CPUs got the faster graphics configuration, because it’s more likely to get used by the consumers who’d buy those chips.

Features of the new Intel graphics core include stereoscopic 3D support, dubbed InTru 3D, Clear Video HD for image quality enhancement, WiDi (Wireless Display), and an integrated media processing engine for hardware accelerated Encoding, Decoding and Transcoding. Intel is calling the media processing engine Quick Sync Video.

Quick Sync work much like the GPU accelerated Encoding, Decoding and Transcoding we’ve seen from NVIDIA and AMD and offers vastly increased performance over software-based solutions. Like NVIDIA’s and AMD’s offerings, software vendors will have to specifically code for Intel QuickSync technology, but that should be happening fairly quickly. We have already worked with pre-release packages from Corel, CyberLink and ArcSoft that can take advantage of Quick Sync.

As you’ll see later, we found Intel’s Quick Sync technology to offer exceptional performance, but there is a significant caveat, at least with desktop processors. Users must be utilizing the processor’s integrated graphics core to take advantage of Quick Sync. If a discrete graphics card is installed in the system and a single montior is attached to it, the desktop processor’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 2000/3000 series graphics core is disabled, with Quick Sync along with it. To use Quick Sync along with a discrete GPU, monitors will have to be attached to both the GPU and Intel integrated graphics.


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