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Intel Core i7 - Nehalem CPUs reviewed

The Core 2 successor possibly is the most anxiously expected piece of hardware in 2008. In our review we check the performance of the three Core i7 models (Codename: Nehalem) in games and applications. Additionally we check the graphics card scaling and the overclocking capabilities.

Intel Core i7 - Nehalem CPUs reviewed
 
[Source: view picture gallery]


Intel Core i7 - Nehalem CPUs reviewed: Introduction
Three Core i7 models are expected to be available in November already. The Core i7-965 Extreme Edition currently is the high-end model with 3.2 GHz. Some online shops list it for about 1200 Euros, so it costs about the same as the currently fastest CPU, the Core 2 Extreme QX9770. The core i7-940 with 2.93 GHz will cost around 680 Euro on release. For the 2.67 GHz version, the Core i7-920 you will have to pay about 380 Euros.

As usual the Extreme Edition is the only version with a free CPU multiplier. The two other models can only be overclocked by increasing the QPI clock speed. Despite the clock speed there actually are now differences between the three Core i7s. They all fit onto the socket 1366 and thus are only running on motherboards with Intel's X58 chipset at the moment. Since the distances between the holes for the fastenings of the cooler have been increased, you will need a new CPU cooler or adjusted fittings.



Intel Core i7 - Nehalem CPUs reviewed
 
[Source: view picture gallery]
Most specifications are commonly known already: Contrary to the Core 2 Quad CPUs the Nehalem processors have a monolithic (native) quad-core design - so they aren't just two dual-cores put together. Due to Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT) each core can run two threads simultaneously. Therefore eight virtual cores are available. Another important feature is the integrated memory controller. All currently known Core i7s have a Triple Channel interface that officially is compatible with DDR3-1066 modules only. But in our tests we didn't have problems running the memory in DDR3-1333 mode, too. The classic Front Side Bus is replaced by the faster QPI connection between CPU and Northbridge.

Intel Core i7 - Nehalem CPUs reviewed
 
[Source: view picture gallery]
There are numerous additional improvements like the SSE 4.2 instruction set, broader execution units, a better Branch Prediction with Macrofusion feature (uses Branch commands with comparative operations) as well as an overhauled virtualization technology. Furthermore the cores now have access to a combined eight MiByte L3 cache. The faster L2 cache on the other hand is now used separately by each core and has been reduced to 256 kiByte for each core. Current Core 2 Duos of the Wolfdale generation have a shared six MiByte L2 cache - Yorkfield quad-cores have two times six MiByte. In some extent games receive a huge benefit from the CPU cache - if the small L2 cache has an effect on the performance is revealed in our gaming benchmarks.

DIE Shot of the Nehalem from an Intel presentation (picture: Intel)
 
DIE Shot of the Nehalem from an Intel presentation (picture: Intel) [Source: view picture gallery]





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Author: Möllendorf, Sauter (Nov 03, 2008)


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