INTEL’S CORE i7 CPU was officially unveiled at an event in San Francisco yesterday, with three versions of the Nehalem architecture-based 45nm processors tipping up and Chipzilla promising more to follow in December and January.
The three processors officially launched yesterday are the Core i7-965 Extreme Edition (3.2GHz), the Core i7-940 (2.93GHz) and the Core i7-920 (2.66GHz). Each new Core i7 boasts four cores, with each core supporting two instructional threads and all four cores sharing 8MB of Level 3 cache. Dell and Gateway were on hand to back up the new Core i7 with a host of high-end, mainly enthusiast-orientated gaming PCs.
Pat Gelsinger, senior Veep and co-GM of Chipzilla’s Digital Enterprise Group, did the official unveiling, noting that Nehalem was a family which would steadily grow. "It’s the beginning of a family of processors," he noted, adding that next year, an expandable four socket plus processor dubbed Nehalem EX would be released as well as an eight core system and towards the end of 2009, Intel’s much discussed Westmere, a 32 nanometre chip based on Nehalem.
As well as counting features like a new power-saving Turbo Boost - to adjust clock speed on individual cores depending on what applications are running - the Core i7 also counts an integrated memory controller which communicates with the double data rate (DDR) memory chips, eliminating the front side bus altogether. This boosts performance without upping the processor’s clock speed, whilst also keeping the thermal envelope at the same as Intel’s previous generation.
Gelsinger boasted that the Core i7 and its hyper threading technology "has shattered all benchmarks", especially when it comes to floating point. He added that about 500 different systems would offer the Core i7 chips with Chipzilla already counting 35 different motherboard design wins. Intel has also already shipped about 100,000 Core i7 processors so far, according to Gelsinger, adding that people had already overclocked the Core i7 microprocessor to over 5GHz.
But probably because the Core i7 platform is aimed squarely at overclockers and enthusiasts, the price is equally over enthusiastic. Putting together a decent processor, motherboard and triple-channel memory comes to about $700, for instance, and Intel quotes bulk prices for 1,000-unit shipments starting at $999 on the high end to $284 on the low end.
This means many users will probably still be sticking with their older Intel Core 2 platforms a bit longer, for a better price/performance value. The newer Core 2 processors will also be getting even cheaper in the second half of next year as Intel unveils two mainstream versions of Core i7, Lynnfield and Havendale. µ
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