Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processor changes the game for the entry-level CAD workstation

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While many of you probably don’t care too much about workstation hardware, some of our readers certainly have an unhealthy obsession with processors, graphics cards and hard drives.

These über geeks will no doubt be interested to learn that we’ve been putting Intel’s Sandy Bridge chip through its paces this week and the results have been pretty spectacular. Intel’s brand new CPU is fast – very fast in fact – and not only that, it’s cheap. We’ve been testing a few workstations around the £1,000 mark, and they rewrite the record books for entry-level machines. We’ll be sharing our results with you next week.

Here are the facts:

Sandy Bridge is first being brought to market with eight desktop processors spread across the Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 product range. The K suffix on the Core i5 2500K and Core i7 2600K denotes that the chip is ripe for overclocking, right out of the box. This is enabled simply by changing the BIOS settings on your motherboard.

You can expect increases in excess of 1GHz for these K suffix chips. The 3.4GHz rated Core i7 2600K, for example, is reported to be reaching speeds of 4.5GHz with standard air-cooling. This means a serious boost to the performance of all your CAD software.

We’ve yet to see if the HPs, Dells and Lenovos of the workstation world will overclock their workstations. We suspect not. However, it’s almost certain that all of the specialist workstation builders will be doing this and some at no additional cost to the consumer.


If you were thinking of upgrading your desktop machine soon, hold fire for a bit until you read what’s coming off the production line this month. We’ll be putting brand new machines from Scan, Workstation Specialists and InterPro Workstations through their paces using SolidWorks, SolidWorks Simulation, Delcam PowerMill, and 3ds Max, so stay tuned.

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