Retail Survival Guide: How to spot a Sandy Bridge PC

Retail Survival Guide: How to spot a Sandy Bridge PC


New notebooks with Sandy Bridge Intel second-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.

For 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 $1000 at least. This notebook may not be at the cutting edge but for the price it’s still excellent value for money.

OBSOLETE TECHNOLOGY

However 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Core notebooks are at good prices currently this is because retailers are trying to get rid of them as they are no longer current technology.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.

Surprisingly 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.

The combination of specs for this Sandy Bridge notebook is truly excellent for the price.

PICKING OUT THE SANDY BRIDGE NOTEBOOKS

One 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

If 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.

WOW 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.

However 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 confused.

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 processor.

For 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 alone.

There 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

If 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.

This 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.

This 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.

A 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.

4. Online

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 telling you.

The 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.

Many 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

If 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 “Categoryâ€. 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 informationâ€. Click on it.

(e) 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 details.

After 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.
 
As 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.

Check our Notebook Hunter service for good deals and Top 10 notebooks in several categories. If you want to ask questions about notebooks go to our newly-launched Notebook Hunter Facebook page and submit one in the discussions area.