Before we go farther, we must state that the i5-2500 is and awesome chip: it's fast, it's efficient, runs quite cool, and also allows us to undervolt to 1.00V at 3.3GHz, which is impressive. However, the i5-2500K, which has been wildly popular, only carries a $10 premium, is slightly more efficient and cooler, and has fully unlocked overclocking features. The i5-2500 is limited to a top-end overclock of 3.8GHz, a relatively meager 15% on a Sandy Bridge platform with great overclocking potential. Ignoring potential sales, rebates, or other incentives which may subsidize the cost of the i5-2500, it's a tough sell alongside its unlocked brother, the i5-2500K. If the price gap were around $20-30, and you don't plan to overclock past the 3.8GHz capability of the i5-2500, it then becomes substantially more appealing.
The overclock to 3.8GHz yielded us about a 5.5% increase in our Far Cry 2 benchmarks, which aren't insignificant, and a 13.3% boost in raw computation score in the PCMark7 Professional Benchmark Suite, which aren't insignificant, but undoubtedly feels a bit held back, like a high-performance car with a governor on it. For only $10, the i5-2500K offers the full performance, without any limitations.
If you're looking for a processor for a folding or other distributed computing machine or for an HTPC, the i5-2500 series provides an excellent choice, especially with the undervolting capabilities. 1.00V operation at stock speeds surprised us, as that's about as low as we were able to achieve at 2.8GHz, and allows for more efficient operation than the i5-2300 at default settings. The one thing Ivy Bridge will certainly offer over Sandy Bridge is efficiency, and we'll find out in a week just how much more efficient. But Sandy Bridge will continue to thrive as an efficient chip, and as its prices fall after Ivy Bridge's release and/or more of them are available cheaply as second-hand hardware, it will continue to be a great choice for efficiency gurus and enthusiasts alike.
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