Intel's middle-class tested

Lynnfield tested: Intel Core i5-750 and Core i7-860 benchmarked in Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery

PC Games Hardware already has access to Intel's forthcoming Lynnfield CPUs and tested the Core i5-750 and the Core i7-860 in the strategy game Anno 1404: dawn of Discovery.

Intel Lynnfield: Introduction
Intel's Nehalem architecture is fast, but only available in form of the expensive Bloomfields, also known as Core i7, for the socket LGA 1366. With the Lynnfield core in combination with the socket LGA 1566 Intel introduces Nehalem to the mass market - the launch is expected in September - as Core i5 and Core i7. According to Intel the customers are not interested in technical details of the products but in the performance - this is the explanation why the company markets both, Bloomfield and Lynnfield, as Core i7. So the following applies: The i7 is faster than the i5 and the i7-920 (Bloomfield) is faster than the i7-860 (Lynnfield) as indicated by the higher model number.

Intel Lynnfield: Technology
The i7-860 has, like the i7-920, four physical cores and due to SMT (Simultaneous Multi Threading) four virtual cores, but it doesn't have the Triple Channel memory interface and the QPI connection to the rest of the system. Instead the integrated DDR3 memory controller of the Lynnfield is working with two memory channels and DMI (Direct Media Interface) which reaches only 2.13 GHz instead of 2.4 GHz (i7-920) respectively 3.2 GHz (i7-940 to i7-975 XE). Furthermore the CPU is not compatible to multi socket setups. But the Lynnfield processors have an integrated PCI Express controller.

Another difference affects the uncore section (L3 cache and memory controller): While the uncore clock speed (UCLK) of the Bloomfiled is at least four times as high as the real frequency of the DDR3 memory (e.g. 2,666 MHz if DDR3-1333 is used) and can be increased by adjusting the multiplier, the UCLK of the Lynnfield is fixed at 2,400 MHz - unless you overclock the reference clock speed (BCLK). The i7-860 is running at 2.8 GHz (133 x 21) and reaches up to 3.46 GHz in Turbo Mode - so the Lynnfield overclocks itself by increasing the multiplier by up to five points.

The Intel Core i5-750 matches the i7-860 but runs at 2.67 GHz like the i7-920 and it also doesn't have SMT - but the Turbo Mode increases the multiplier by up to four points pushing the clock speed to 3.2 GHz.

Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery Benchmark sequence
For our benchmarks we use a medium sizes city with lots of beggars shown from the lowest zoom level. This scene is well suited for CPU benchmarks. The graphics limitation for the used Geforce GTX 285 at 1680 x 1050 without MSAA/AF ranges at 50 fps. The video below illustrates the Anno 1404 benchmark sequence.

Intel Lynnfield: Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery benchmark results
Intel's new middle-class in form of the Core i5-750 is only little slower than the i7-920 (with deactivated TM/SMT) although it doesn't have a Triple Channel interface and thus on 4 instead of 6 GiByte RAM as well as a lower uncore clockspeed (2.13 GHz instead of 2.67 GHz). By comparing the i7-920 with activated and deactivated Simultaneous Multi Threading we can confirm that Anno 1404 is the first game that benefits from SMT - 8 percent advantage with the feature activated.

The Core i7-860 places itself slightly behind the Core i7-920 with DDR3-1333 RAM respectively slightly in front of the Core i7-920 with DDR3-1066 - the Core i7-920 is able to compensate the 133 MHz higher frequency of the i7-860 with its additional features.

Conclusion: Intel's Lynnfield generation is almost on the same performance level as the Bloomfields, but according to the latest rumors a new socket LGA 1566 system will be cheaper than the current high-end products.

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Author: Marc Sauter (Aug 05, 2009)

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