Intel Core i7 "Nehalem" 920, 940 & 965 XE Processor Review
Let’s take a little walk through the recent history of processors since it is a story of amazing success and crushing losses, along with both stunning and utterly disappointing performance numbers. Indeed, we have seen a pretty amazing transformation in the overall performance as well as efficiency in the last few years. Back in the days of Intel’s Pentium 4s to AMD’s Athlons, the processor marketplace used to be a confusing minefield of competing products vying for your attention until AMD released their Athlon 64s. In the blink of an eye, the game of cat versus mouse suddenly had Intel scurrying to find an answer to a surging AMD. AMD enjoyed its time in the limelight until Intel found the answer to their problems in the form of the mobile Yonah laptop processor. From this unsuspecting corner, the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors we have all come to know and love were conceived and born. Not only did these new processors run all over the AMD competition but they have been running strong for more than two years with little competition. Now, following Intel’s Tick / Tock model where a new architecture is released every other year, we have a brand new processor family launching. It is called the Nehalem by many, but can also go by its Core i7 name or even by its codename: Bloomfield.
Today marks the day that we are finally able to post our review of the next step in Intel’s march to market domination and with it they are hoping to put the competition to shame. What we get is a processor with four physical cores which through the “miracle” of Hyperthreading (don’t worry, this will be explained in its own section a bit later on in this review) operates as if it has eight cores. Words like QuickPath Interconnect, Turbo Mode and Triple Channel Memory will all become familiar lexicons in no time at all since they are all integral technologies that this new 45nm processor family uses.
This may sound perfect for many of you operating those LGA775 systems out there but there is one important thing to remember: unlike the move from the Pentium D to the Core architecture, a completely new socket was used for the i7 processors. Technological advancement comes at a price folks and thankfully, with this step forward the sacrifices one will have to make are relatively minimal. This new LGA 1366 socket will be the centerpiece of a new generation of motherboards boasting enough overclocking potential to put a smile on the face of the most jaded enthusiast while having features galore. We will be running multiple reviews of these new X58-based boards in the coming weeks so stay tuned since some of them are real show stoppers.
While today may mark the day we can begin talking about these new processors and their accompanying motherboards, it will still be a few weeks until you can actually go out and purchase one. In other words...be patient. That being said, even though they may not have any real amount of competition on the market today, the prices being asked for the processors themselves will not be exorbitant. According to the chaps over at Intel, the launch prices will be about $284 for the i7-920, $562 for the i7-940 and finally nearly $1000 for the i7-965. This isn’t outrageous but since you have to factor the price of a new motherboard and memory into the equation, things start getting a bit hairy for the bank account. That being said, boys will be boys and many of us will spend whatever it takes to get the latest and greatest.
We should also mention right now that this review marks the launching point of what will amount to be a series of articles about this new Intel platform, its features and how to best take control of all the options at your fingertips. Without a doubt, this is an exciting day to be a reviewer and a consumer so without sounding too excited, let’s get this show on the road and introduce you to this brand new world Intel wants us all to be part of.
Logos: Core i7 on the left, Core i7 Extreme Edition on the right.