UPDATE: Intel Attacks the Bottom with New Entry-Level Sandy Bridge Processors


While most media reports revolve around the high-end CPUs, market reality is that vast majority of volume are lower end products. With an updated price list (PDF Download) Intel yesterday silently introduced a couple of new CPUs, that complement the current Sandy Bridge-based offerings to the lower end. This includes a few new Core i5 and i3 models as well as new offerings under the Pentium brand name. The Pentium brand was retrofitted for entry level desktop CPUs a couple of years ago after the big failure of Pentium 4 and its siblings.

Model Clock L3 Cache Cores/Threads GFX TDP Price
Core i5-2405S 2.5GHz 6MB 4/4 HD 3000 65W $205
Core i5-2310 2.9GHz 6MB 4/4 HD 2000 95W $177
Core i3-2105 3.1GHz 3MB 2/4 HD 3000 65W $134
Pentium G850 2.9GHz 3MB 2/2 HD ? 65W $86
Pentium G840 2.8GHz 3MB 2/2 HD ? 65W $75
Pentium G620 2.6GHz 3MB 2/2 HD ? 65W $64
Pent. G620T 2.2GHz 3MB 2/2 HD ? 35W $70

There are a few surprises here. First, Intel adds new variants of their Core i5-2400S and i3-2100 models to their lineup. The new models get their model number incremented by 5 and include the better performing HD 3000 integrated GPU. The previous models feature a HD 2000, where half of the 12 execution units are disabled, castrating already limited graphics performance. This can be attributed to AMD strongly iterating the advantages of its Fusion APUs, which come with very strong GPUs compared to Intel’s offerings. Intel is merely trying to shorten the gap, before AMD actually hits the market.

Regarding the Pentium CPUs, they feature a further downgraded version of the Sandy Bridge architecture. While Core i3 already had to give up two physical cores, the turbo and hardware AES instructions but was allowed to retain Hyper-Threading, the Pentium chips are stripped of this feature. Thus they offer two physical CPU cores without any of those features. Clock frequencies are slightly below Core i3 offerings at 2.6-2.9 GHz. There is also a low power model with its clock reduced to 2.2GHz running at only 35W TDP, which will make a nice HTPC chip.

The Pentium processors are meant to be bundled with Cougar Point-based H61 chipset, which features a reduced number of PCI-Express lanes, USB and SATA ports. Also Rapid Storage Technology is not supported, which allows to form disk arrays. However, assuming that vendors supply BIOS updates, these CPUs should run on any socket 1155 motherboard capable of running more expensive Sandy Bridge CPUs.

Pentium and Celeron processors with Sandy Bridge Architecture won't carry advanced graphics features
Pentium and Celeron processors with Sandy Bridge Architecture won’t carry advanced graphics features

At press time, the CPUs weren’t yet added to Intel’s online ARK CPU database. Thus we couldn’t determine the supported instruction sets as well as the exact specification of the integrated GPU of the Pentium chips. In some leaked slide it was just labeled "HD Graphics", so this is what we will run for now. The instruction sets supported should be the same as for Core i3 though, but you never know as previous generation Pentium G6900 chips lacked SSE4.2 for example. Another feature where the products could be differentiated is memory support. Pentium G6900 only supported DDR3-1066, while previous generation Core i3 and up also supported DDR3-1333.

Update on March 25, 2011 at 16:53 GMT: We got informed by Intel, that the integrated GPU doesn’t get a number attached for Pentium and future Celeron CPUs based on the Sandy Bridge architecture. It will simply be called "Intel HD Graphics". As for features, it lacks Quick Sync Video ? the hardware video encoder, InTru 3D, Clear Video HD. Also both the Pentium and future Celeron lines of Sandy Bridge come with their AVX support disabled.