Sandy Bridge Renaissance

SandyBridgePC-PCbuildAfter selling off some computer components from previous systems owned which I somewhat regret, I later decided to keep what was leftover. Before my current AMD Ryzen 7 PC, I had a Sandy Bridge (second generation) Intel i5-2500K-based PC that served me well for several years. It lasted me so long as I never was at the forefront with gaming. When timing allowed for it, I’d end up playing a title that was already a few years old. Blending old and new I ended up assembling this PC for a modest sum of $520 AUD; aiming for cheap without skimping too much given this isn’t my main PC at home.

Whilst I enjoy assembling PCs, I tend to like being able to re-purpose older hardware that may otherwise be taken down for e-waste recycling. I’m rather dubious given the recent crisis on recycling programs globally, where it had only been shipped over to China. At a later date, I’ll be posting on assembling Socket 775 systems which are great for Windows XP to 7 gaming. For now, it’s this PC running Windows 10 viewing the components, getting it running, and finally some benchmarking. Prices mentioned are from early 2019, and new components were purchased from Scorptec Computers in Melbourne, Australia.

The Components

SandyBridgePC-1Gigabyte H67A-UD3H-B3 Motherboard (Free) – Purchased new back in 2011, this was considered to be a rather mid-range motherboard for its time. Nothing fancy, but functional. Some of the features include USB 3.0, SATA 3.0, PCI Express x16, and supports up to 32 GB 1,333 MHz DDR3 RAM. A later BIOS update meant supporting the third generation Ivy Bridge processors.

Intel i5-2500K CPU (Free) – A quad core processor with a base frequency of 3.3 GHz. It had been a solid performer for a few years and being the ‘K’ model meant it was overclockable. I was never one to care that much to do so however.

SandyBridgePC-216 GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3 1600 MHz (Free) –  Four 4 GB sticks of RAM with their own heatsinks. Whilst the RAM has gone faster over the years with DDR4, the amount needed to be comfortable for most uses has stagnated over the decade.

2 x 1 TB WD Black HDD (Free) – Leftover hard disks I had lying around. Not concerned if a drive fails, as it won’t be for critical data. SandyBridgePC-3Intended primarily for game installations. The Black series were known for offering better performance and larger cache sizes compared to their Green and Blue cousins.

2 GB MSI GTX 960 $133 AUD – The first and only item purchased used was this GTX 960 GPU from eBay. Generally speaking a rather capable card for gaming up to 1080p resolution. Whilst being a PCI Express 3.0 card in real world terms is largely immaterial for gaming on this motherboard which only supports 2.0.

SandyBridgePC-6Cooler Master MasterAir MA610P $69 AUD – Although the original Intel heatsink for the processor was still okay, I went for this heatsink to add some pizzazz. Suitable for a number of various processor sockets, this contains six heat pipes, dual fans, and a wired RGB controller.

SanDisk SDSSDH3-250G-G25 250 GB SSD $64 AUD – This SSD sat between the cheaper Kingston and more expensive Samsung drives. Officially it’s rated at 550 MB/s and 525 MB/s for read and write speeds respectively. 250 GB was chosen over ~120 GB drives for that extra legroom with Windows 10 and minimal price difference.

SandyBridgePC-7EVGA SuperNOVA G+ 650W $139 AUD – The most expensive item on the list, this I felt was a good balance between price and quality for a power supply. 80 Plus Gold certified and fully modular cabling provided.

Corsair Carbide 275R T/G Window $115 AUD – Again like the power supply, I wanted something nice without leaving the wallet empty. For the case, I chose this Corsair for its minimalist appearance and having tempered glass as a side panel. As becoming a trend with new cases, there’s no option to install an optical drive so gave that a miss to include one of my spare DVD-RW drives.

Assembly & Powering On

First off I went to install the power supply beneath the cover by taking off the steel side panel. It was a tight fit, given the proximity of two 3.5″ hard disk drive bays. Due to this, I inserted the needed power cabling prior to placing the power supply inside. The fan is directed downwards for ventilation on the base of the case. Overall it was the worst part for assembling this PC given the space constraints for the cabling, though there were other pitfalls along the way.

Prior to inserting the motherboard, I took off the original Intel heatsink and cleaned up the dried thermal paste off the processor and applied a fresh coating. With the backplate on the back of the motherboard, I then placed the new Cooler Master heatsink and discovered a new problem that I wasn’t suspecting. The only way to secure the heatsink was by either removing the right-hand side fan, or removing RAM. The former option was decided on, which later resulted in the RGB not lighting up. Nonetheless with only one fan the temperatures have still been reasonable.


Unfortunately one of the fans had to be removed from the heatsink to sit beside the RAM.

The WD Black hard disks were inserted beside the power supply, whilst the SSD is positioned directly behind the motherboard in a vertical position. The SATA cabling just added to the spacing woes.

The final dilemma were the front USB 3.0 ports on the front of the case. The motherboard was released when devices were mostly USB 2.0, and 3.0 was still very new. Because of this, there were only two USB 3.0 ports on the back of the motherboard, whilst only having support for USB 2.0 connectors to plug into the front of the case. At the moment this means USB ports are only accessible from the back of the PC. If it bothers me enough, simple adapters can be purchased to solve this.

After inserting a CMOS battery back in, it was time to turn it on. Initially I used a PS/2 keyboard in the initial process as there was no response from using USB. That and viewing the Award BIOS reflects the age of the motherboard, which had been largely been kept the same since the days of the Pentium II. From then on it was the usual process of installing Windows 10 Pro from a USB thumb drive.


Standard BIOS screen of yesteryear.


First a quick test over at gave me “Jet ski” status for gaming and workstation use, both scoring 38%. Overall for general desktop use, the PC faired better as a “Gunboat” with 59%. Although testing from this website isn’t overly comprehensive, it does reflect a rather modest gaming PC which is to be expected.


Next was over to SiSoftware Sandra Lite (version 2018.12.28.69) to expand on this further. Sandra provides its own metrics as a kPT score, or overall processor score based on various tests carried out. The i5-2500K’s kPT score was 1.71 whilst the i7-2600 from the same generation fared 2.01. In between these for comparison below is the i9-9900K that scored the highest at 7.77, Ryzen 7 2700X, and the i5-8400.


Breaking this down the same processors are compared. The multi-threaded arithmetic test scored 71.22 GOPS, multimedia was 151 MPix/s, and cryptographic bandwidth was 4.36 GB/s. The i5-2500K was closely aligned with the i7-2600, the main exception being the inter-core bandwidth test from where the i7 has the additional 4 threads to take advantage of. On a side note, it was interesting to see the Ryzen 7 2700X outperform the i9-9900K on cryptographic bandwidth.


Comparing the earlier kPT score with power management and the i5-2500K draws well below the i7-2600, formulated by maximum consumption. I guess this is reasonable given the performance. Unexpected was the i7-2600, to be directly sitting below the i9-9900K in this respect.


The final processor benchmark was comparing the kPT score with the speed of the cores. Both Sandy Bridge processors sat closely together. Given the price to performance ratio at the time, the i5-2500K was considered good value for most tasks thrown at it.


Next it was comparing the graphics processing unit (GPU). This PC had the 2 GB GTX 960 receiving a kPT score of 1.94. For comparison, the older GTX 560 was 1.03, a 6GB GTX 1060 was 3.06, and the later RTX 2080 Ti peaks out at 7.15.

Memory bandwidth between the GTX 560 and 960 showed minute differences, though the 960’s largest gain were performing transcoding tasks.


Lastly with Sandra Lite shows how the newer generation cards have reigned in on power consumption.


The last benchmarking software used was the free edition of 3DMark from Steam that provides the Time Spy test. The overall score achieved was 2,301. In the graphics tests, it sat between 13 to 15 frames per second (FPS) so was rather weak for this.

Mafia II dating back to 2010 had its own benchmark available within the game. This averaged out to 44.9 FPS on a 1,680 x 1,050 60 Hz monitor.


Commencement of Mafia II’s benchmark test.

Lastly was a quick run of Fallout New Vegas running at maximum settings on a less conventional 1,680 x 945 resolution. There was no option available to run at the screen’s native resolution, but needless to say the game itself was very playable.


Miniature nuclear explosions were smooth sailing.

Gaming titles such as the above and Skyrim and LA Noire will play rather comfortably on such a PC. Grand Theft Auto 5, Watch Dogs, and Cities: Skylines are borderline acceptable given the GPU installed, however officially the developers recommended the third-generation Ivy Bridge processors for these. I’ll personally leave those titles for the Ryzen 7 PC.

Although I could have built this for less by taking shortcuts with the power supply and case for instance, I was quite pleased with the results. Unfortunately a couple of rather minor issues with the size of the heatsink and USB 3.0 ports, though ones I can live with. For the most part this PC will be given “hand-me-downs” when such a time comes that I upgrade a newer PC of mine.

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