Note: This article was not condoned or supported in any way by Intel. We obtained all pre-release hardware on our own. Enjoy.

The Recap

Yeech, ok, this is more complicated than it should be. Last year Intel launched its brand new Nehalem architecture, the first processor was codenamed Bloomfield and sold as the Core i7.


Nehalem - Bloomfield, aka Core i7

The Core i7 has four cores (with Hyper Threading, so that’s 8 threads), an 8MB L3 cache and a triple-channel DDR3 memory controller. Of course there’s a lot of other special sauce that makes the i7 the beast that it is; if you want more details check out my original Nehalem architecture article.

Since its launch, i7 has only been available in three flavors: the 920, 940 and 965. The most affordable one, the i7-920, costs $284 in 1Ku quantities.

Processor Clock Speed Cores / Threads Maximum Single Core Turbo Frequency TDP Price
Intel Core i7-965 Extreme 3.20GHz 4 / 8 3.46GHz 130W $999
Intel Core i7-940 2.93GHz 4 / 8 3.20GHz 130W $562
Intel Core i7-920 2.66GHz 4 / 8 2.93GHz 130W $284

 

The Core i7 fits into Intel’s new LGA-1366 socket and is mated with Intel’s X58 chipset:

With the memory controller on-die, the X58 chipset acts like a PCIe switch than anything else; all other I/O (e.g. USB, SATA, Ethernet, etc...) go through the ICH10 which is connected to the X58 hub.

Despite being a relatively simple piece of silicon, Intel prices the X58 chipset as a premium product. The X58 chipset is more expensive than any other desktop Intel chipset on the market, that includes P45 and X48. In turn, X58 motherboards are pricey.

At launch X58 motherboards sold for well above $200 and it took a while for us to see boards finally drop down to and below that $200 price point. Only recently have we found a motherboard that’s even somewhat affordable with MSI’s X58M priced at $169.

With a $200 motherboard and a $284 CPU, the i7 was priced out of competing with even AMD’s highest end Phenom II. While the Phenom II X4 955 costs $245, you can easily pair it with a $100 motherboard.

Rather than drive LGA-1366 pricing down, Intel had another plan - to introduce a more mainstream platform for Nehalem.

Making Nehalem Affordable: LGA-1156
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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Saturday, May 30, 2009 - link

    P55 essentially has the same ICH feature set as P45. You get support for six SATA 3.0Gb/s ports, 12 USB 2.0 and PCIe 2.0.

    Intel's chipsets are actually what I use for all of my SSD tests and they work quite well. I wouldn't expect any different out of P55.

    Remember that P55 is only the first Lynnfield chipsets, next year we'll see more. This chart speculates on some of the features of those (it also lists 14 USB instead of 12, I'm not sure which one is right):

    http://img405.imageshack.us/img405/74/hkepcibexpea...">http://img405.imageshack.us/img405/74/hkepcibexpea...

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Drazick - Saturday, May 30, 2009 - link

    I thought so...

    I hope someone will adopt the changes quickly.
    It's about time to get rid of the BIOS and make room for speed improvements int the Flash chips (Both via the SATA 3 and USB 3).

    Do you see in the horizon how long will it take before will see those features?

    Thank you for the response.
    Reply
  • Krogoth255 - Saturday, May 30, 2009 - link

    I find it very funny when people make a huge fuss over a 2-10% difference in performance (i5 versus i7). It is sad that even budget CPUs are bloody overkill for majority of computer users.

    The bottom line is that i5 is going to be Intel's next big winner. It is the perfect Phenom II killer and an excellent successor to the Core 2 parts that it is replacing. I7 makes very little sense unless time is $$$$$.



    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Sunday, May 31, 2009 - link

    Exactly. My nearly four-year old S939 Athlon 64 X2 still performs everything I do (with one exception) more than fast enough so the difference between the i5 and i7 would be irrelevant. I still think I'm at least a year or two from doing a new build (the only thing of any value at all in my current box I could reuse would be the graphics-card, a 640MB 8800GTS; most of the drives are parallel ATA, and the memory is of course DDR).

    Given that the one app where my current rig struggles is PCSX2 (a Playstation 2 emulator), it seems kind of silly to spend upwards of £500 for a new box simply to play PS2 console games, when I could probably buy a new PS2 console for under £100. Therefore debates over the relative merits of i5 and i7 which are both much faster are rather moot for me at the moment, and the vast majority of the PC buying public. It is nice to know how they compare though, and what their pros and cons are (the main con I see being the price of X58 mobos), so I'm thankful for this informative article on AT.
    Reply
  • just4U - Saturday, May 30, 2009 - link

    I don't quite understand why X58 boards are so expensive. At first we were complaining about ddr3 prices.. but they've come down to a managable point. While cheaper X58 solutions are starting to crop up it's still extremely high and I don't quite get why that is.

    With the memory controller integrated into the chip you'd think that the cost of the boards would be cheaper overall. That was one of Amd's main selling points (if I remember right) but for the i7 not the case.. the boards are priced incredibly high.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Saturday, May 30, 2009 - link

    It's artificial. The boards are priced so high because Intel charges quite a bit of money for the X58 chipset. It's the cost of competition; if AMD had a true answer to i7 we'd have much more affordable i7 platforms all of the sudden :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • jmurbank - Sunday, May 31, 2009 - link

    Chipset and processor prices are two different things. Neither are related to each other. Like all products, prices of chipsets is related to other chipsets competing at the same level. Since the X58 does not have any competitor, people have to pay a high premium for a complete i7 system. If nVidia is allowed to make a chipset for the i7 processor, we will see these high premium prices decrease. Since the i7 processor is designated as enthusiast setup, prices will still be at enthusiast pricing.

    Reply
  • just4U - Saturday, May 30, 2009 - link

    You've had them on your test beds so you'd know better then I. Hell I haven't even gotten any hands on with the i7 since people here keep opting for the PII. Not that that's a bad thing, I am rather impressed with those overall just..

    Im beginning to realize the only way Im going to get my grubby little paws on a I7 is if I go out and build it for myself. Even I balk a little bit at the price tag of some of those boards but there are a few coming down the pipeline that look a little bit more reasonably priced.


    Reply
  • Jabbernyx - Saturday, May 30, 2009 - link

    EX58-UD3R = $150 from eWiz ;) Reply
  • goinginstyle - Saturday, May 30, 2009 - link

    It is $185.99 at eWiz with a $15 rebate that will take two months to get for an end price of $170.99. Reply

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