Core i5 2500K and Core i7 2600K review

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Intel Core i5 2500K and Core i7 2600K

Hey all and welcome to the new year! We've mentioned in some other reviews that 2011 is going to be a very significant year in the processor industry as we'll be faced with two changes. The first being a new architecture for both Intel and AMD, changes will allow processors to be faster "per core", something we have been evangelizing for a long time now. See, you can add more and more cores, in the consumer market we've gone from 1 towards 2 to 4 to 6 CPU cores and will go to 8, even up-to 12 cores in the next year or so. But software anno 2011 will take the best advantage of 2 to 4 CPU cores really, once you pass four CPU cores only professional applications and content transcode software remain a real benefit for that amount of multiple cores.

With that statement in mind, I'll take faster per core performance anytime when I'd have to choose in-between faster performing per core 4 or say 6-core processors. Exactly here is where today's tested processor is going to startle you.

The second major change you will see this year is to be found inside the processor as we'll start seeing integrated graphics processor cores, embedded and harbored into the processor. Last year, exactly a year ago to be precise, we already familiarized ourselves with the new Core i5 650, 660 and 661 processors. These CPUs already have GPUs inside of them, with one difference, they had two little small chips on the processor die, literally. And that's about to change.

Today of course we'll be reviewing Intel's latest architecture, developed under family codename Sandy Bridge. Intel today officially announced the Core i5 2500 and Core i7 2600 processors. Actually, they release four processors as the models tested are specific K edition (2500K & 2600K), the K is the indicator for unlocked multiplier processors.

Why K versions you ask? Well, the default Sandy Bridge processors will be much harder to overclock. With Nehalem (last generation Core i3/i5/i7) you pretty much take your base clock of 133 MHz and apply say a default multiplier of 25, that would be your 3.33 GHz processor. That base clock was capable of going so much higher, 150, 186 and when tweaked right, even over 200 MHz.

The new technology however has an embedded GPU / video processor merged into the very same processor die running over the same bus sharing the same L3 cache memory, things get increasingly complicated in matters of tweaking. The new 100 MHz baseclock of Sandy Bridge processors therefore is hard to tweak, if you are lucky you can get to 115 MHz, multiply that with your maximum multiplier and you'll notice that the default 2500/2600 processor can only overclock a few hundred MHz at best. And that is why Intel introduced the K series, it will offer you an unlocked multiplier which will allow you to go much, much higher.

With all the rumors on limited overclocking, the one thing that did surprise us was the overclock potential with these K series processors, but of course we'll show you a nice overclock session, and in fact all today's test benchmarks will carry overclocked test results with the 2600K processor running at 4300 MHz, on the stock Intel air cooler!

Enough of that for now though, today we'll put the Intel Core i7-2600K and Intel Core i5-2500K processors to the test, we will pair the 2600K processor with the Intel Desktop Motherboard DP67BG and also run a test with the Intel Core i5-2500K processor on an Intel DH67BL motherboard. Have a quick peek at the kit used below and then let's head onwards to the next page.

Intel Core i5 2500K and Core i7 2600K

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