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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 Quietpc.com 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.