Sandy Bridge cpu question

kfitzenreiter

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Does anyone out there know if there is any truth to the idea that a Core i5 (1155) is really just a hobbled version of a Core i7 (1155)? In other words Intel creates a flagship version, in this case the 1155 Core i7 and then simply disables some features to create Core i5s, Core i3s and soon sandy bridge versions of Pentiums and even Celerons.

I tried "chatting" with intel technical support and got nowhere. ( I wonder why???)

Any thoughts?

I'm not necessarily seeking an "exact answer," but the field above can't be changed.
 

kfitzenreiter

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I have heard of this concept, but find it rather hard to believe. I think of tiny errors in data files which make them completely unusable or minor bugs in computer programs that would make them crash nearly immediately. How can it be that "errors" in something as complex as a cpu would affect only, say hyperthreading, but not turbo-boost or L3 cache, in any way, seems unbelieveable to me. And how would you obtain large, reliable quantities of such "bad" chips to meet demand?

I was just reading an article stating that intel is testing an "upgradeable cpu" concept in certain world markets. The idea is this. A person buys a system with a certain intel cpu and chipset. After a period of time, they determine that they would like to "upgrade" the performance of their cpu. This person buys a "product key" from intel from a third party and then downloads a small program onto their computer. Upon running the program and entering the key, the additional features are then "unlocked." This process may turn on hyperthreading, or make additional L3 cache available or whatever. Obviously, in this case, these features must perform properly whether the customer "buys" them or not, since they could potentially buy them at any time or never. I would be willing to bet this is going on more often then we are being told.
 

ghnader hsmithot

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One speck of dust can damage thousands and thousands of wafers.The clean rooms in which cpus are manufactured are 10000times more cleaner than hospitals and for every cubic square meter only one atom of dust exist.The real die size of the cpu is actually smaller than a dime.
Its much harder than most people think to get high yields from cpus.
 

kfitzenreiter

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I believe the need for cleanliness that exists to create cpus. However, how would these "specks of dust" cause problems only in hyperthreading, across all cores, but not in "turbo-boost?" Or another speck of dust kills L3 cache, but not hyperthreading. These would have to be mighty selectively distructive specks of dust to make such highly precise errors that would destroy one area of the cpu and no others.
 

kfitzenreiter

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I guess my core question remains. Isn't it possible that Intel simply (well, not simply in the easy sense) but rather creates fully functioning core i7s and then takes a percentage of these "good" cpus and disables certain features on a microcode level, using some "motherboard" that none of us mere mortals have access to, in order to make core i5s and core i3s and so on???

And, with the revelation of these new "upgradable" pentiums coming into being, wouldn't that support my argument even more?
 

ghnader hsmithot

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John Fruehe of AMD:
Often, if you are yeilding higher than normal, you end up down binning. Let's say your normal distribution was 15% on top bin. Then you do some process improvements, and you get to 35% top bin. And maybe N-1 is up to 85%, and by N-2 you are at 100% yield. Well, every chip coming off the line is capable of at least N-2 speed at that point, but you need a bunch of N-3 and N-4 because your demand is coming in for those speeds. You end up down binning the N-2 material to N-3 or N-4. They overclock well because they could easily be rated at N-2 or better.
http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=2037172
 

kfitzenreiter

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Okay, so let's suppose for the moment that all this is true. What about this new issue of "upgradable cpus?" If Intel is going to sell chips that are intentionally hobbled and that can, at some unknown future date, be "unlocked," then that implies that they are capable of making such chips with a great deal of precision and regularity. It means simply that they can create a fully functioning chip and "hobble" it and then present the end user with the option of paying extra money to unlock features.

Therefore, if this can be done, it probably is being done, at least to some degree.

But let me ask the question in another way...

Has anyone been able to "look" at a core i7 and a core i5 under appropriate magnification to determine if they may indeed be the "same" chip fundamentally?
 

Umbongo

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Yes, that is how they do it. Intel have created their product tiers that work for them and they will do what they need to supply the correct product, more likely though the binning process doesn't yield well enough where they are disabling things on a lot of chips just to serve the lower end.

Another thing you might be interested in is that Xeon 5600s come in 4 and 6 core versions. The 4-core versions are 6-core chips with 2 disabled but with the same L3 cache as the 6-core models.

This isn't really a revelation though, its been known. This is just how Intel create their product. I know some people feel that if they buy a processor that was created with more features and they have since been disabled that they are some how being wronged by the chip maker, but that isn't really how it is. Intel do it this way because it is cheaper, so the alternative is people pay more or get less for their money.
 

kfitzenreiter

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I doubt Intel or anyone else for that matter gives a dam% what I think, but it seems to me this practice is unethical.

If I purchase a General Motors automobile, and I choose a Buick, it isn't a "hobbled" Cadillac. I could just see it now. GM makes all Cadillacs, but smashes out the glass on some to make it a Buick or they unhook the fuel lines to two cylinders to make a Chevy. Of course this would be ridiculous.

Buyers of premium processors should be purchasing something that is special to their unit, not just something that is on all the units but was subsequently broken. Why not just let everyone have a core i7 for the same price.
 

palladin9479

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Ok kfitz stop thinking of them "disabling" anything and instead think of them shipping you something better then what you purchased.

As example, (just theoretical)
$300 A = 3.0 GHZ 6 Core CPU
$220 B = 2.6 GHZ 6 Core CPU
$150 C = 2.6 GHZ 4 Core CPU

You decide to purchase a "B" CPU. They currently don't have any "B" CPUs available as their process has improved to the point where they don't make enough errors to create "B" CPU's. Instead they ship you an "A" CPU that has been down-clocked to make it the same as the "B" CPU you purchased. Or they might have a "B" CPU available and just ship it to you. In either case you end up with exactly what you pay for.

Basically when you order a "B" CPU one of two things might happen, you get a "B" CPU or you get an "A" clocked like a "B" CPU. If your good you should be able to clock the "A" CPU to be closer to the "A" level, but remember you didn't buy an "A" CPU you bought a "B" CPU. The other alternative is they could simply tell you "there is no more B CPU, you must give us another $80 so we can ship you an A CPU".

As for Intel making "unlockable" CPU's, there is nothing ethically wrong with that. If the user buys an "A" CPU at the same price as a "C" CPU, then later wants to upgrade it to an "A" CPU, that is fine. You get what you pay for. There is no free lunch. Intel nor any other company isn't "taking" anything away from you, you are getting ~exactly~ what you purchased. If your product is more capable then what you payed for, then its a bonus.
 

13thmonkey

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These companies exist to make a profit not to provide processor goodness to everyone, so if they can sell a little of something faster and a lot of something slower vs just a little of something faster then they'll do it. No profit = no development = stuck at P3.
 

kfitzenreiter

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I guess my problem with it isn't that they are giving me what I "paid" for, but rather they are taking something away from me that gives them nothing.

Why hobble the processor? Why not just clock it as a "c" grade processor and then let me, if I have the technical skill, go in and raise the multiplier and/or fsb speed or whatever. They've already designed the processor. They've already diffused the die. All the materials are already there. Intel gains nothing by denying me the better processor.

If I buy a car without air conditioning, for example, it isn't a car with a/c where some mechanic drained the freon out and destroyed the compressor. The components simply ARE NOT THERE at all. If I buy a 1/2 ct diamond from a jeweler, the jeweler doesn't take a 1 ct stone and cover up 1/2 of it and call it a 1/2 ct. The other 1/2 ct ISN'T THERE AT ALL. That is the difference.
 

Umbongo

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It isn't a car or a diamond though, it is a processor. They are made differently. The markets are different. And so the business model is different. They do this because it is the most efficient way to manufacture them. Also people buying a single processor are of very little concern to a company like Intel. System vendors and retailers are their customers and they want a way to differentiate product and make larger margins for extra features and performance.
 

kfitzenreiter

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I understand your reasoning. But the flip side is this. Since as you say, the vast majority of people never do anything but walk into a Best Buy or Office Depot or whereever and purchase an OEM machine from HP or Compaq or Dell and never, ever lay eyes on the CPU or even the heat sink and fan, why not allow "enthusiasts" such as ourselves to utilize features already there on the CPU. Make all "boxed" versions of CPU's "black editions" or unlocked versions. The work has already been done. The features are already there on the chip.

And with these new upcomming "upgradable" cpu's from intel (certain pentium and a certain chipset) you can bet the moment they are released, hackers are going to work into the wee hours trying to "unlock" the processors features without buying the upgrade card.
 

Umbongo

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Because they can get another $100 out of you for that same product, why would they give you it for free?
 

cbrunnem

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a 2500k isnt a cadi with its back window broken its just an i5. think of it like this, maybe your thinking of it backwards, a 2600k is just the same cadi but supercharged its still the same guts but has an added supercharger.

the reason intel does what they do is because not everyone needs hyperthreading or a quad core or a high clocked power drainer. not everyone has the same needs so they make what most of the people want in the most efficient way possible.
 

kfitzenreiter

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But it's not just an i5, it is an i7 with hyperthreading disabled.

That's my point. They intentionally hobble it to create this false economy of "cheaper" chips, but in reality they are increasing the power drain. Less efficient chips mean chips and computers which are on longer and use more electricity. People wasting more time waiting for applications to finish.

Let me choose to turn off hyperthreading or to downclock if I want to run a fanless low-power rig or something of that nature. The vast majority of users wouldn't know how to take advantage of an unlocked multiplier if you gave them instructions printed on a sheet of paper. And by all means, charge a bit more for each cpu if they must. Why sell 75% or so of your cpu's for $75 - $160 or so and 15 - 20% for $200 - 250 and then the final few percent for $300+?? If you bump up the price of the cheapest cpus $20 - $40 or so you could recoup all of your money and offer top performance, efficiency and energy saving to all.

And it would probably spell the end of AMD, which wouldn't be good in the big picture, but would be good for Intel.

I just purchased a core i5 2400 (3.1 ghz, 3.4 ghz turbo boost) I paid about $200.00 U.S. for the cpu and it seems very good so far. For about another $100 currently through newegg I could buy a core i7 2600 (3.4 ghz, 3.8 ghz turbo boost) For close to $100 less I could buy a core i3 2100 (3.1 ghz, no turbo)

Now you can't tell me that the increase in performance of the core i7 from the core i5 is equivalent to the value of the total core i3 2100!!! In other words they charge $100 more for the core i7, presumably because it has hyperthreading and 2 megbytes more of l3 cache. For that same $100 you could (almost) buy another whole (damn decent) cpu, the core i3 2100!!!

 

kfitzenreiter

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But they are already "giving it to me." The chip infrastructure, so to speak is already there, it has not been stripped out. I just can't use it because they switched it off at the microcode level. If some eager enough computer geek out there with too much time on his hands determined that if you run this code on this chipset it reactivates the disabled features, I once again could use it. Many AMD processors allow you to take a crack at it. A dual core becomes a stable tri-core or quad core and so on.
 

Umbongo

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Yet people buy 2600s and 2600Ks so obviously it does have value. The only reason you are feeling cheated is because of the way they create it because it isn't the same as other manufacturing processes you have come to accept, but the alternative is that you pay more for less than you get already.
 

kfitzenreiter

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This may be a plausable answer.

I guess at the end of the day, I am philisophically oppossed to intentionally "breaking" something in an effort to create what I call a "false economy." It would be as if I operated a small, imaginery lemonade stand in my neighborhood, fully licensed by the proper state and local agencies, of course (LOL). And then I create high-quality, full bodied lemonade in my commercial kitchen to sell at my lemonade stand.

But instead of giving more to the highest paying customers, perhaps a real lemon wedge or extra sugar sprinkles or a special keepsake glass, I simply give them the lemonade.

What I also do is give "other" customers the same lemonade that has intentionally allowed to get stale or whatever. Not that I have extra, but I want to sell them something lesser, so I do this....You get the idea.

It isn't just intel. I have been also looking at Phenom ii x2 for a system upgrade, but I decided against it because many of them are simply hobbled Phenom ii x4 or Phenom ii x3's. Now I understand that a percentage of these may actually be cpu's with defective cores, but the fact remains that many of them are, in fact, hobbled intentionally to create a false economy. To AMD's credit, at least with the right motherboard you have a shot at "unlocking" your x2 into and x3 or maybe even an x4. And that's kind of "cool" and then at least there is some gamble, some excitement to the whole process.

Instead, I opted for the Athlon ii x2 250. It seems to be very capable, has low thermals and works quite well. It doesn't seem to have anything to unlock and nothing hobbled. And I'm happy to report that on one of the "pi" speed/stability tests it trails the core i5 by only a second or so, at standard clock. (Just under 6.8 seonds compared to about 5.5 or so for the core i5) Not bad for a $60 cpu.
 

kfitzenreiter

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But the additional value isn't there. I can see charging a premium, but why cheat people especially when Intel is at the top of their game. It just shows where no competition would lead if AMD ever goes down for good, which I hope they don't.

Consider also the 775 cpus that they still sell. Why have these prices not come down? Certainly, these cpus are no longer the cutting-edge, top performers of yesteryear. And yet, Intel still sells them at prices comparable to and in some cases more than the new sandy bridge models. This is also a bit of a rip off.

Basic economics states that when better quality items come along the lesser ones are sold for less, but that doesn't seem to ever happen with cpus or Intel...
 

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