Photos: building a Sandy Bridge PC

Photos: building a Sandy Bridge PC

Summary: We needed a testbed PC running Intel's latest-generation Core i7 processor, so we built our own. Here's how it turned out.

TOPICS: Hardware, Reviews

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  • With Intel's latest 32nm processors, codenamed Sandy Bridge, now out in the wild, we decided to build a brand-new PC using the top-end Core i7-2600K processor. We asked Intel for a motherboard, and the company came up with a DP67BG, containing the P67 Express chipset. Intel also sent a heatsink, but we wanted a top-end device that would also fit an AMD chip, so came to the rescue. Quiet PC loaned us a case, the excellent Fractal Design Define R3, a Scythe Stronger 600W power supply and a Noctua NH-C14 heatsink, the top of whose two 140mm fans takes centre stage here.

    Why specify AMD compatibility? Because our plan was to face off two desktop PCs — but AMD declined to take part after we'd placed our order.

    Other components include an Intel 80GB SSD, which we already had in the cupboard, an Nvidia 9600GT-based graphics card, a pair of Ballistix 4GB DDR3 PC1600 memory modules from Crucial Technologies, and of course the Core i7 CPU itself.

    Photos: Manek Dubash

  • Inside the unassuming shell of Intel's 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K, which has four cores and an 8MB cache, is a brand-new architecture, the second to be introduced on Intel's 32nm manufacturing process after Westmere. Sandy Bridge is the latest 'tock' in Intel's 'tick-tock' CPU development process. It includes Hyper-Threading, which enables multiple threads to run on each CPU core and so improves overall performance on threaded software, and a new version of Turbo Boost, which allows all cores to overclock simultaneously for ten to twenty seconds if the chip was previously running cool. The Core i7-2600K will boost to 3.8GHz, if doing so will not overheat the chip.

  • Unless you count them, you may not notice the reduction in the number of connection pads (1,155) from the previous generation of Core i7 chips (1,156). On the CPU die, in addition to the four cores, is Intel's HD Graphics module, which is fully integrated on the ring bus and shares the top-level cache with the processing cores, boosting performance. We haven't made use of that in our system, however, opting instead to install an nNvidia PCI-E card. The range-topping Core i7-2600K supports overclocking and is aimed at those requiring maximum performance, yet consumes only 95W.

Topics: Hardware, Reviews

Manek Dubash

About Manek Dubash

Editor, journalist, analyst, presenter and blogger.

As well as blogging and writing news & features here on ZDNet, I work as a cloud analyst with STL Partners, and write for a number of other news and feature sites.

I also provide research and analysis services, video and audio production, white papers, event photography, voiceovers, event moderation, you name it...

Back story
An IT journalist for 25+ years, I worked for Ziff-Davis UK for almost 10 years on PC Magazine, reaching editor-in-chief. Before that, I worked for a number of other business & technology publications and was published in national and international titles.

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  • Update: We will, of course, be keeping an eye out for the SATA II bug in this system's P67 (Cougar Point) chipset
    Charles McLellan
  • Jeez thats a massive heatsink lol! Typical of a big company like Intel to make such a small error :(
  • The heatsink IS pretty big, especially for a 95W part, but it'll cope easily when this extreme version of the chip is computing flat-out.
    Manek Dubash