Whispers of three new Intel Sandy Bridge SKU's cropped up last month, and at first glance the i5-2380P, i5-2450P and i5-2550K appeared to be simple speed-bumps of already well-established parts. Later clarifications have amended this considerably - whilst they are speed bumps of existing SB parts, the new CPU also have their GFX core disabled. The rumoured cause is non-functional graphical cores, but what at first sounded like a release in limited numbers now appears to be a significant quantity shipping.
VR-Zone is reporting that these new CPUs will ship from the 6th of February in the EU and US, but in the case of the 2550K those anticipating a cheap unlocked SB CPU may be out of luck; the 2550K may be no cheaper than the 2500K.
Confused nomenclature will pose a problem for retailers, especially in the case of the 2550K. The CPU, essentially a 2500K with higher multiplier but without HD2000 graphics, would be a poor choice for buyers with any intention to overclock. It would also be unsuitable for consumers who seek to take advantage of Intel QuickSync video encoding on the Z68 platform. Would you spend more on a part with limited functionality? A distinct suffix such as the 'P' on the other new i5 parts would have been sensible to differentiate the CPU sufficiently from the 2500K.
It will be interesting to see how well this will play out. Having made integrated graphics such a central part of Sandy Bridge, Intel and retailers will have to tie themselves into knots to market the parts at a premium, rather than depressed, price. Still, this is good news for existing P67 owners who initially bought a low-end CPU - 2550K's should be available well into the Ivy Bridge life cycle and lack of graphics functionality is a non-issue for this platform. If nothing else, it should bolster the second-hand P67 market.
In other news, the Sandy Bridge-E Core i7-3820 for LGA-2011 should be released on the 13th of February with RRP of around US$300, making it the most affordable SB-E CPU released thus far and rounding out the high-end Sandy Bridge-E range.