Friday, June 17, 2011

Intel 2nd Generation i5-2500K Processor Review

Speed, Speed, Speed. It's not all about cars. We also like our computers to be speed demons as well. With the 2nd generation Core i5, Intel continues to oblige us with our need for speed. The Intel Core i5-2500K has some great features, as well as satisfying our speed appetite. The 2500K is the special unlocked processor for overclocking, and it is soooo worth it!

It's features and specs include:
Processor Number i5-2500K
Launch Date Q1'11
# of Cores 4
# of Threads 4
Clock Speed 3.30 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency 3.70 GHz
Cache 6.0 MB
Instruction Set 64-bit
Lithography 32 nm
Bus Type DMI

Memory Specifications
Max Memory Size
(dependent on memory type) 32 GB
Memory Types DDR3-1066/1333
# of Memory Channels 2
Max Memory Bandwidth 21

Graphics Specifications
Integrated Graphics
Intel® HD Graphics
Intel® HD Graphics with Dynamic Frequency
Graphics Base Frequency 850 MHz
Graphics Max Dynamic Frequency 1.10 GHz
Intel® Flexible Display Interface (Intel® FDI)
Intel® Clear Video HD Technology
Dual Display Capable

Advanced Technologies
Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology No
Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
Intel® Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d) No
Intel® Trusted Execution Technology No
Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology
Intel® Fast Memory Access
Intel® Flex Memory Access

Some of the more notable features are: Integrated Intel HD Graphics. A CPU is no longer just a CPU. The new 2nd generation Intel Core processors also include a built-in GPU. And one of the things that make it so great is that it is on die to the CPU. It is all part of one piece. So what you see that looks like a normal CPU chip, is also a GPU as well. And it is fairly respectable as well, with the ability to not only do HD video, it can also do 3D gaming. The base GPU frequency is 850 MHz, and can be boosted up to 1.1 GHz. It can even provide the ability to handle dual monitors.

Turbo Boost Technology. Have you ever heard about overclocking, wanted to do it, but thought you would just end up breaking it? Well now you can be overclocking, and without even knowing it! Thanks to Turbo Boost Technology, your Intel Core i5-2500K processor in a large workload such as 3D gaming or video encoding, the processor can overclock automatically. It has a base frequency of 3.3GHz, and with Turbo Boost it can go up to 3.7GHz. But don't worry if you are a big fan of going green and conserving energy. The processor will only boost the speed when it senses the need for it.

It looks to be a well designed processor. With the first generation of Core processors from Intel, it was a huge blow to AMD. They just performed so well! So, how does the second generation of Core processors from Intel perform. I will summarize it in one word. Wow! Or as Boy Wonder would have said, "Holy Processors, Batman!" This Intel Core i5-2500K is an amazing performer. It seems like they just keep getting better and getting better. And it really can be difficult to decide when to buy, and when to wait. The 2nd generation Core processors, also known as Sandy Bridge, are great chips. If you want to wait, the next generation of processors from Intel is code named Ivy Bridge. But we are over 6 months away from them being released. And with the performance you get from Sandy Bridge....why wait?

The review is a little later coming than I was expecting, and I wanted to touch on why. If you hadn't heard, Intel had a bug in one of their SATA controllers. While it did not effect the processors, it did effect one of the chips provided to make the motherboards for it. And I have to give Intel the approval nod for how they handled it. The chip only effected the controller for two of the SATA ports. Many of us may not have even used the ports affected. And if you did, chances are you weren't using all of the ports. So switching ports for your device would have been simple enough. Even then, it was estimated to be a problem that wouldn't surface until years down the road. But Intel did the right thing and recalled the chips. Motherboards were pulled off the shelf. Better to deal with it now than later and have disgruntled customers. So....there was a wait for new motherboards to be released once the new chips were available.

But back to the review. No matter what I threw at it, it performed in spades. Watching video, doing encoding, and gaming all ran smoothly with great performance. I just was not expecting this much performance, especially from an i5 processor. In most programs, the i5-2500K performed better than my first Core generation i7-870 that was previously reviewed here, and earned our Editor's Choice Award. And the i7-870 is not only a quad-core processor, it also has Hyper-Threading which the i5-2500K does not have. So for the i5-2500k to best the i7-870 in most cases, and do well against others...really says something! Take a look at these benchmarks:

And here are a couple other reviews of some Asus motherboards using the Intel i5-2500K processor:

As I said before...WOW! This processor is smoking! And it did great overclocking as well. A base frequency of 3.3GHz is fast. On the standard stock air cooler, I got a stable overclock of 4.3GHz with little effort. With a larger cooler you can go even higher than that. With an MSRP of $219.99, the i5-2500K delivers a huge bang for the buck, and is probably the sweet spot as far as price to performance is concerned. The built-in memory controller also really appeared to help! Based on it's features and performance, the Intel i5-2500K has earned our Editor's Choice Award. Kudos to Intel! For more information and complete specs, check out their website at