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Intel Sandy Bridge for laptops review

Verdict

Intel's Sandy Bridge goes mobile, and brings high-end power to mid-range laptops

Review Date: 26 Jan 2011

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: Processor can't be bought separately; laptop: (£680 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
6 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

With the market for desktop PCs shrinking every year, more and more people are abandoning their PCs in favour of laptops. It's easy to see why: with Intel's Core architecture cramming desktop levels of power into affordable portables, even a budget laptop is often all anyone will ever need. Now, with the advent of Intel's latest microarchitecture, Sandy Bridge, its mobile Core processors promise to soar yet further into the performance stratosphere.

Sandy Bridge is set to take pride of place in everything from affordable budget notebooks to premium mobile workstations, and Intel's gone back to the drawing board for the 15-strong range of Core-i3, i5 and i7 processors.

New Sandy Bridge mobile processors

The first flush of models are built on a 32nm process, with Intel's integrated HD graphics squeezed onto the same silicon die as the CPU, and support for DDR3 memory of up to 1600MHz. In addition, Intel's Turbo Boost technology has reached its second generation, and a new instruction set, Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX), serves to accelerate repetitive operations such as those required by media conversion software.

There's a baffling array of options too, with dual-core, four-threaded Core i3, i5 and i7 processors aimed at the mainstream audience, plus Performance and Extreme Edition models sporting quad-core, eight-thread architecture.

A quiet revolution

It's perhaps fitting that our first sight of a Sandy Bridge laptop didn't exactly bowl us over. Indeed, those expecting visual fireworks will be seriously disappointed. Acer's Aspire 5750G is shod in an understated dark grey chassis and, were it not for the specification sticker ruining the surprise, we could have mistaken it for any mid-range 15.6in notebook.

Acer Aspire 5750G

Beneath that mild-mannered exterior, however, lies Intel's Core i7-2630QM processor. Sat squarely in the upper echelons of Intel's newly revamped line-up of Core i7 processors (see table for full details), the Q in the processor's name denotes that the 2GHz i7-2630QM is one of the four-core, eight-thread models, and with a 45W TDP it's a processor you can expect to see making its debut across many manufacturers' desktop replacements and mobile workstations in the coming months.

While that base clock of 2GHz might not sound particularly quick, Intel's Turbo Boost 2 technology is now capable of pushing clock speeds much higher than previously; up to a maximum of 2.9GHz in the case of the i7-2630QM. As ever, the maximum speed increase is reserved for single threaded applications, but Turbo Boost 2 now allows for the CPU speed to be increased while all four of the processor's cores are working flat out.

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User comments

Similar to Asus Sandy Bridge laptop?

I've just bought an ASUS N53SV-SX138V from morecomputers after looking at the highest end Sony Vaio SZ and deciding to wait for the the Sandy Bridge processers to hit the laptop scene. The Asus is costing me £840 or so, which when compared to the £2800 that the Sony Centre were wanting looks a total bargain!

Question is, how similar is the Asus likely to be in power compared to the Acer on review?

By RJPeaker on 26 Jan 2011

Measly resolutions

As long as laptops keep shipping with measly 1366 x 768 resolution screens, desktops are safe - with me anyway!

For goodness sakes a 15" screen is plenty big enough for 1080p HD, given how close it will be viewed from.

By JohnAHind on 26 Jan 2011

Shame about the screen

Having used laptops with high resolution screens for the past 7 years or so, it is disappointing to see the 1,366 x 768 screen resolution still hanging on as standard. Even 17" laptops don't manage to get 1050/1080 vertical resolution.

This is a high spec laptop, and yet you can only see a few lines of a document or web page at once. All the time the user saves with the faster processor is wasted scrolling around the screen.

Put another way this only a few more pixels than the 4" screen on an iPhone.

By tirons1 on 26 Jan 2011

I'm glad 15" laptop screens don't have massive resolutions - it makes text very hard to read.

I had an old HP laptop a few years ago with a very high res 15" screen - looked great until I started trying to read text on it.

iPad and iPhones have the ability to zoom easily in and out - so high res no problem on those screens.

By cyberindie on 26 Jan 2011

Screen sizes

Interesting to see the comments of people on the screen sizes. I personally don't mind as the Sony Vaio SZ laptops I've been using have all had the 1366x768 resolution, but then they've been on 13.1" screens. The Asus I've just bought (see first comment) does come with a 1900 x 1080 screen - I can't wait to see the difference!

By RJPeaker on 26 Jan 2011

@cyberindie

I do lament the move to 16:9 screens, and appreciate that some users will not want a high resolution display.

However clearly high resolution displays are the norm everywhere except 15"+ laptops.
Surely 15"+ laptops are not just for those with poor vision?
I believe part of the problem is the labelling of 720p screens as HD, although all broadcast HD content is 1080i.

By tirons1 on 26 Jan 2011

@cyberindie

I fully agree,
I have just purchased a laptop for my boss. The most important criterion was that the screen has a pixel density not higher than 100DPI. The 1366x768 resolution on 15.6" screen makes it a sweet spot.

That's equivalent of 21.5” screen with 1920x1080. Or 30” screen with 2560x1600 resolution.

By stasi47 on 26 Jan 2011

Availability

Great Laptop, good price, availability in UK Zero. This is not even listed on Acer UK's web site, none of their online etailers list the model.

By GrahamAH on 26 Jan 2011

Faulty?

I was quite excited about this article/review as I will be needing a new laptop fairly soon. But then I heard about the Intel recall affecting all Sandy Bridge PC's and laptops, mentioned here:

http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/364867/intel-recall-af
fects-all-sandy-bridge-pcs

But later on I also read in the last Micro Mart that Intel are NOT recalling and are going to let the faulty units be used in retail PCs and laptops, provided that the OEM suppliers agree to disable the affected SATA ports.

I'm worried that I can not be sure if I buy now(ish) that my laptop may have these faulty ports.

By cbyhyh on 14 Feb 2011

what is the point of reviewing this laptop

As this laptop is not available in the UK what is the point of this review?? Great to know I can buy this in India or Malayasia but I struggle to cope with blatant marketing material that gets your hopes up but then dashed as you cannot buy it. Come on pcpro review things we can buy in the UK

By mauriceatkinson on 9 Mar 2011

But it IS available in the UK!
Just Google it (be careful which version comes up - there are variations). Available from Amazon and others.

By gemaidment on 2 May 2011

I have a child with adhd and he have low grades in reading and math. when i let him at the computer he do better understanding his work.
his teacher let him work on computer at school.

By nita7 on 7 May 2011

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