Sandy Bridge and Cougar Point

Intel released its second-generation Core CPUs back in January. Unfortunately, the excitement generated by the release of the fastest mainstream desktop processors was quickly dampened by the Cougar Point chipset recall. To be clear, this issue affected only the earliest Sandy Bridge-compatible motherboards, and not the Sandy Bridge CPUs themselves. This issue is now fixed—there are no defective motherboards available through reputable North American retailers like Newegg and Amazon. In the almost half-year since the initial Sandy Bridge CPU release, the platform has matured, with CPU variants available for almost every budget and a number of niches, as well as motherboard chipsets with a variety of feature sets and in form factors from mini-ITX to extended-ATX. Succinctly, the second-gen Core CPUs are astonishingly powerful and sip electricity. As Anand aptly described them, “architecturally it’s the biggest change we’ve seen since Conroe.” I agree with Anand—not since I upgraded from an AMD Athlon X2 3800+ to an Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 at the end of 2006 have I been so impressed by a new CPU as I have by the Core i7-2600K.

This is the first guide I’ve written for AnandTech that will not be ‘fair and balanced’ for both AMD and Intel. I hoped this month’s guide would detail higher-end builds featuring and comparing AMD’s Bulldozer CPUs and Intel’s Core i5 and i7 chips, but unfortunately, AMD’s release of its high-end desktop Bulldozer SKUs is now delayed until September. The midrange Llano desktop APUs are scheduled for retail availability in early July, and Llano-based laptops are already showing up here and there online (though as of the time of writing, they are not available for actual sale). Thus, AMD’s entire product line will be refreshed within the next few months. With the imminent release of radically new APUs and no currently available AMD CPUs that can compete with Intel’s higher-end CPUs, this month’s guide focuses on the second-generation Intel Core processors. I simply don’t think it makes much sense to build an AMD system at least until Llano’s desktop release—unless you need a budget rig and you need it right now. And lest I be accused of favoritism, next month’s guide will likely focus on Llano-based desktop computers.

It’s also a great time to build an Intel-based computer. The successor to LGA 1155 (the Sandy Bridge socket), LGA 2011, is not due out until late this year, and looks to supersede LGA 1366 at Intel’s highest-end of the desktop CPU spectrum. Other than supporting Sandy Bridge-E CPUs, LGA 2011 will offer PCIe 3 (which current GPUs can’t take advantage of) and native USB 3.0 (even though third-party USB 3.0 controllers are already shipping on many Intel and AMD motherboards). Considering how capable the Core i5-2500K and Core i7-2600K are today, it’s unlikely Sandy Bridge-E will field any model that’s astonishingly faster than what’s already available. Thus, if you buy a Core i7-2600K now, you’ll be at the near pinnacle of desktop computing for at least 5-6 months. I think there are times to buy and times to wait. It’s a bad idea to buy right before a lineup refresh (as is the case with AMD today), but it’s also unwise to delay building a system to hold out for the next big thing when that’s half a year away and unlikely to be that much better!

CPU and Chipset Overview
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  • just4U - Sunday, June 19, 2011 - link

    What's interesting about the $1000 range system is how many of us have come to many of the same conclusions. My system would be very comparable on all the key components save perhaps the Power Supply.. (using an 650HX from Corsair) Altho I don't see anything wrong with using Antec's 400W either.
  • duploxxx - Sunday, June 19, 2011 - link

    spoken by one who believes atom is better then e-350 :)
    yeah right

    I didn't reply on the fact that they don't offer an AMD design just the way they talk about certain products and there unbalanced designs which are much to CPU centric.... but then again that's all what matter's
  • just4U - Sunday, June 19, 2011 - link

    How can you say that? They gave the nod to the 260 and the 945 as being competent cpu's for todays users with gains being in most instances marginal at best (for the budget entry)

    Fact remains systems today regardless of CPU choice(s) are all pretty stellar. This isn't the days of the celeron where you take really big hits for budget builds.
  • duploxxx - Sunday, June 19, 2011 - link

    As far as I am aware the internet and forums are there to use by those who want. So who are you to decide if I should write or not, second I will decide for myself what I prefer or not.

    stating someone is a fanboy and you as the responder is obviously not is al ready very questionable.

    That doesn't change the fact that while this is an SNB oriented guide that Anadtech should have withdrawn them from downplaying another company or even referring to it, afterall it is a guide to a buy a cpu from 1 company only. And it doesn't change the fact that these design builds have no real design pupose besides a price range and they are all build with oversized cpu and downsizing all other parts just to be able to fit in the budget of 500 and 1000$.
  • just4U - Sunday, June 19, 2011 - link

    They sorta have to mention them as they are a factor... I am a huge amd fan and I thought the comments they made in reference to amd were quite favorable.
  • duploxxx - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    well that happens off course when the buyers guide content changes..... most here didn't see the first article.
  • Hrel - Friday, June 17, 2011 - link

    It's pretty likely that bulldozer will just beat out Nahalem. I'd be surprised if it was competitive with Sandy Bridge, let alone the next CPU coming out, on 22nm. I forget the code name but you know what I'm talking about. I think AMD is in trouble as far as CPU's go. They're just falling farther and farther behind.

    I really hope they pull out another Athlon 64 soon so Intel drops their crazy pricing and ludachris motherboard policies. Stupid no native USB 3.0, 2 SATA 6GBPS ports? really? Really?
  • GullLars - Saturday, June 18, 2011 - link

    Kinda OT, but LudaChris is a rapper, and the name is a pun on Ludicrous+Chris. :P
  • Andreos - Saturday, June 18, 2011 - link

    As it is, I have already built my SB system, and you guys are basically a day late and a dolla short. Some of your component choices are strange, if not mystifying. Folks ought to read the motherboard reviews on Newegg before plunking down their money on some of your recommendations. I think you guys are caught up way too much on theoretical considerations and personal technology fetishes, and need to get back to the practical aspects of system building.
  • DanNeely - Saturday, June 18, 2011 - link

    Start of the $2k build page: "There are areas where this system will be close to twice as fast as the midrange build, but that’s mostly in games and comes courtesy of the dual GPUs." As listed the system has a single high end GPU, not CF/SLI midrange cards.

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