i7 2600k, i5 2500k & 2300 1155 Sandy Bridge Review
Published: 3rd January 2011 | Source: Intel | Price: £170 & £260 |
So we have the replacement for the LGA1156 series of processors that just seemed to be finding their feet. With them coming it at three differing price points but not really for three different markets, we have to split this conclusion into three parts.
The pricing difference between the two Core i5 chips is around £20 but the performance difference is comprehensive.
The Core i5-2300 definitely suffers from being the "middle" child in the SandyBridge range as it's neither so cheap as to be a bargain for the value market, nor is the performance so great that it's a genuine challenger for the top range models. The reason why we felt the need to include it is this would be perfect for a workstation machine or even a low power HTPC, the onboard GPU is perfectly powerfull enough to run HD videos with out hardly touching the main CPU itself.
Whilst gaming performance is about on a par with most things as we'd expect because we know that games are far more dependant upon the GPU than CPU alone, the 'every day' performance is sufficiently beneath the Core i5-2500K that it's incredibly tough to recommend either as a first foray into the PC owning world, and definitely not as an upgrade option.
Moving on to the Core i5-2500K we find a definite diamond. Coming in just shy of £170 at retail it's a long way below previous top end Intel releases such as the i7-920 or i7-860, but the performance is up there with the very best. At stock it's around the speed level of the i7-950 and when overclocked it regularly takes third place in our graphs below the i7-2600K.
Although we would never recommend a 1.6v overclock, once the main vendors sort their bios out we would say this CPU is easily capable of 4.5GHz and with a bit of know how, and hopefully a decent motherboard going past this point may well be attainable with a safe 24/7 Voltage as our Intel board did droop quite badly. Id like to think a well made board with a solid power delivery would help coax more from this at much lower volts.
If you absolutely must upgrade at all times or are looking at owning an entire new PC, this is definitely the chip to have. If you've got something below the i7-950 or i7-860 then it is seriously worth a long hard look at for an upgrade.
As we would expect from a range-topping chip the Core i7-2600K takes all the plaudits in performance terms. At stock it rocks all of our graphs, and the performance when overclocked at 5GHz is as mind-blowing as you'd expect a Quad-Core hyper-threaded 5GHz CPU to be.
Of all the things you have to consider the Hyper-threading is the most vital thing. At just short of £250 the price gap between the i7-2600K and the i5-2500K is large, especially for the normally small gap in performance. So if your tasks are largely based upon needing to make an enormous amounts of calculations in the tiniest timescale, then the extra £80 is a worthy expenditure. Otherwise, unless you must have the best at any price, we'd advise the Core i5-2500K as the best of the new breed.