Heavily discounted notebooks with first generation Intel Core processors are being sold alongside those with faster second-gen Core CPUs. How can you tell them apart?
New notebooks with Intel 2nd generation Core processors
are arriving almost daily, forcing retailers to clear first-generation
Core notebooks off shelves with dramatic price reductions. Consumers on
budgets should rightly be excited, because the lower price brackets are
steadily filling up with notebooks that have really excellent specs.
instance, one notebook with a first-generation Intel Core processor is
the ASUS K52JT-1YR-SX398V from Harvey Norman for $698 (below). It has a
fast first-generation Intel Core i5-480M processor, a low-end graphics
card and most impressively a Blu-ray player. An equivalent notebook with
a Sandy Bridge processor would cost around $1,000 at least. This
notebook may not be at the cutting edge, but for the price it’s still
excellent value for money.
consumers should also be aware that while first-generation Core
notebooks are at good prices currently, this is because retailers are
trying to get rid of them, as they are no longer current technology.
Second-generation (Sandy Bridge) Intel Core processors give notebooks
several significant advantages over first-generation models, which
should be taken into account.
In short, Sandy Bridge processors
are much better at processing graphics, so games and high-definition
videos run better on them, and video editing and encoding is an order of
magnitude faster. And since the processors have the graphics power
built-in (whereas previously they needed discrete graphics cards to
achieve the same level of performance), most basic Sandy Bridge
notebooks are much lighter and have longer battery life.
there are some really good deals for Sandy Bridge notebooks as well. An
example is the HP Pavilion DV6-6023TX for $993 (below). Its Core i5
Sandy Bridge processor is faster than first-generation Intel Core i5s
for notebooks, and the graphics card is also much more powerful than
those in any alternative notebook with a similar price tag and a
first-generation Intel Core i5. Prices are going down but computing
power is going up.
PICKING OUT THE SANDY BRIDGE NOTEBOOKS
of the biggest current problems when buying a Sandy Bridge-equipped
notebook is actually identifying one in a catalogue. Some retailers mark
them clearly, others don’t, and some actually mislabel first-generation
Intel Core-equipped notebooks as Sandy Bridge-equipped notebooks. It’s
confusing, it’s annoying, and it can lead some consumers to buy older
technology they don’t actually want. But there are some tell-tale signs
to look for if you want a second-generation Sandy Bridge Core processor.
1. The processor name
the catalogue lists the specific processor name, check how many numbers
are used in the name. Three digits, for example 460M, indicates a
first-generation Intel Core processor. Four digits, for example 2537M,
indicates a second-generation Intel Core processor. However, this alone
isn’t a guaranteed check, as some retailers will incorrectly type the
name of the processor.
Sight and Sound lists the above notebook’s Sandy Bridge processor
perfectly. Intel Core i5-2410M is the correct model name, and together
with the Sandy Bridge logo it’s possible to be very confident that this
given notebook does in fact have a Sandy Bridge processor.
this catalogue shot directly above from WOW Sight and Sound lists the
notebook as having an Intel Core i5-410M. It should instead be Intel
Core i5-2410M. In this case they have at least got the correct logo and
made it clear that it’s “GEN2”, but shoppers will rightfully get
2. The clock speed
Good catalogues will tell
you the clock speed of the processor in a given notebook. Because there
are only a few Sandy Bridge processors currently in use, you can use
clock speeds mentioned in the adverts to tell if they are from Sandy
Bridge processors. However, be sure that the processor is identified as
an Intel Core processor; from there the clock speed is helpful, but
without any identification you can’t be sure it’s a Core processor and
not, for example, an Intel Pentium.
The only Sandy Bridge Intel
Core i3 that is commonly seen in current notebooks is the 2310M with a
clock speed of 2.1GHz (as seen below). Happily enough, no
first-generation Intel Core i3 has that clock speed, so if all you have
is a 2.1GHz clock speed you can be confident that it’s a Sandy Bridge
Sandy Bridge Intel Core i5s there are two common processors. What is
mainly seen is the 2410M, as seen below, that has a clock speed of
2.3GHz, and less commonly the 2537M with a clock speed of 1.4GHz. Again,
no first-generation Intel Core i5 has either of those clock speeds, so
it’s possible to identify the Sandy Bridge processor by clock speed
are three Sandy Bridge Intel Core i7s to consider, and once again they
all have clock speeds that aren’t seen in any first-generation Intel
Core i7s. The three Sandy Bridge Intel Core i7s are the 2620M that
clocks at 2.7GHz, the much more common 2630QM that clocks at 2GHz, and
the 2720QM that clocks at 2.2GHz.
3. Logos and terms
one of the first two points is satisfied, then it’s possible that the
term “second-generation” or a Sandy Bridge logo will be present in the
catalogue entry as well. Sadly, this isn’t fool-proof, as some retailers
accidentally use Sandy Bridge logos for first-generation Intel
Core-equipped notebooks. Or at least, we think it's accidental. That’s
why you need point 1 or point 2 to be satisfied before placing any value
in point 3.
entry in the Good Guys catalogue above uses the proper logo for a Sandy
Bridge Intel Core i5 processor and also has a clock speed that’s only
possible for a Sandy Bridge Intel Core i5.
Harvey Norman catalogue above has a Sandy Bridge Intel Core i5 logo,
but the clock speed is given as 2.66GHz. The processor here therefore
isn’t a Sandy Bridge processor, or at the least there is serious doubt.
more recent catalogue (seen directly above) from Harvey Norman lacks
any logo and only states that the processor is an Intel Core i7.
Thankfully there is the notebook’s model number to help with
identification, but from the ad alone there’s no way to tell what
processor is inside.
There is one piece of
catalogue information that can be really useful, and that’s the model
name of the notebook. Even if the information about it is incomplete in
the catalogue, with a model number in hand it’s possible with most
notebook manufacturers to find out exactly what’s in it. APC's Notebook Hunter
web site also keeps a thorough database of all currently available
notebooks along with rankings, so that's a good place to start with any
notebook queries and research. With a model number in hand and a little
bit of time, it’s often possible to find out what a catalogue isn’t
Notebook Hunter site is a large, constantly updated database of every
notebook currently available at major retailers. If you’re researching
notebooks, it should really be your first port of call.
manufacturers like HP have a very thorough database of their own
notebooks (as seen above), so if you need to confirm spec information,
that’s also a good way to go about it.
5. The physical store
all else fails, and unfortunately that can be the case, it’s always
possible to go to the store and confirm for yourself. This is probably
the most complicated of all the steps so far, as it requires a
switched-on notebook at the store itself with any version of Windows 7
running. What you want to do is as follows; in five easy steps you’ll
not only know what the processor is but everything else about the
notebook’s specs as well.(a)
First, click on the start icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. It's the one with the Windows logo.(b)
In the start menu that appears, look at the grey section. Click on
“Control Panel” and then look at the top right-hand corner of the new
window that crops up. (c)
In the Control Panel window, click on “View by:” and in the options
that appear select “Category”. In the new menus that appear below, click
on “Review your computer’s status”, which is under the heading “System
and Security” in the top left hand corner. (d)
On the left of the new window there should be an option called “View performance information”. Click on it.
In the new window that opens there should be a button called “View and
print detailed performance and system information" below the large table
of numbers rating how well Windows 7 is running. Click on it. A new
window will appear that gives full details of all the information in
your computer. If the processor has a four-number name, as discussed in
point 1 above, then it’s a Sandy Bridge processor. From here you can
also see other specs like the amount of RAM, the graphics card and other
all the hassle of determining if a notebook has a Sandy Bridge or not,
you might be asking if it’s worth all the bother. Without a doubt: yes,
it certainly is. Although there are fast first-generation Intel Core
processors, in almost every instance the new Sandy Bridge processors are
faster. They also have integrated onboard graphics that are very
helpful for tasks like video transcoding and image processing.
a final point, first-generation Intel Core processors are now old
technology. You shouldn’t pay anywhere near full price for a notebook
that contains one. It’s also important to identify which notebooks have
Sandy Bridge processors because it helps determine which bargains are
merely good and which ones are outright excellent.