Final Words

First keep in mind that these performance numbers are early, and they were run on a partly crippled, very early platform. With that preface, the fact that Nehalem is still able to post these 20 - 50% performance gains says only one thing about Intel's tick-tock cadence: they did it.

We've been told to expect a 20 - 30% overall advantage over Penryn and it looks like Intel is on track to delivering just that in Q4. At 2.66GHz, Nehalem is already faster than the fastest 3.2GHz Penryns on the market today. At 3.2GHz, I'd feel comfortable calling it baby Skulltrail in all but the most heavily threaded benchmarks. This thing is fast and this is on a very early platform, keep in mind that Nehalem doesn't launch until Q4 of this year.

One valid concern is with regards to performance in applications that don't scale well beyond two or four cores, what will Nehalem offer us then?  Our DivX test doesn't scale well beyond four cores and even then Nehalem's performance was in the 20 - 30% faster range that we've been expecting.  The other thing to keep in mind is that none of these tests are really stressing Nehalem's integrated memory controller.  When AMD made the move to an IMC, we saw an instant 20% performance boost in most applications.  I suspect that the applications that don't benefit from Hyper Threading, will at least benefit from the IMC.  We've only scratched the surface of Nehalem here, looking at the benefits of Hyper Threading and its lower latency unaligned cache accesses.  We've hinted at what's to come with the extremely well balanced and low latency memory hierarchy of Intel's new baby.  Once this thing gets closer to launch, we should be able to fill in the rest of the puzzle.

Over six years ago I had dinner with Intel's Pat Gelsinger (back when he was Intel's CTO), and I asked him the same question I always do: "what are you excited about?" Back then his response was "threading", Intel was about to launch Hyper Threading and Pat was convinced that it was absolutely necessary for the future of microprocessors.

It was at the same dinner that Pat mentioned Intel may do a chip with an integrated memory controller much like AMD, but that an IMC wouldn't solve the problem of idle execution units - only indirectly mitigate it. With Nehalem, Intel managed to combine both - and it only took 6 years to pull it off.

Pat also brought up another very good point at that dinner. He turned to me and said that you can only integrate a memory controller once, what do you do next to improve performance? Intel has managed to keep increasing performance, but what I really want to see is what happens at the next tock. Intel proved its ability with Conroe and with Nehalem it shows that the tick-tock model can work, but more than anything looking at Nehalem today makes me excited at what Sandy Bridge will bring.

The fact that we're able to see these sorts of performance improvements despite being faced with a dormant AMD says a lot. In many ways Intel is doing more to improve performance today than when AMD was on top during the Pentium 4 days.

AMD never really caught up to the performance of Conroe, through some aggressive pricing we got competition in the low end but it could never touch the upper echelon of Core 2 performance. With Penryn, Intel widened the gap. And now with Nehalem it's going to be even tougher to envision a competitive high-end AMD CPU at the end of this year. 2009 should hold a new architecture for AMD, which is the only thing that could possibly come close to achieving competition here. It's months before Nehalem's launch and there's already no equal in sight, it will take far more than Phenom to make this thing sweat.

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  • weihlmus - Friday, September 05, 2008 - link

    is it just me or does lga1366 bear more than apassing resemblance to amd's logo...

    if only they could have crammed it into 1337 pins - "nehalem - the 1337 chip"
    Reply
  • Proteusza - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    I see that on the Daily Tech main page, the headline for this article now reads:
    "June 5, 2008
    Post date on AnandTech's Nehalem preview, before it was ripped and republished on Tom's Hardware"

    Does anyone know what happened? I cant find the same article on Tomshardware, I presume they took it down.
    Reply
  • xsilver - Friday, June 20, 2008 - link

    10 pages of comments and not one about the future of overclocking?

    No more FSB = no more overclocking??????
    Enthusiasts might jump ship if overclocking usually brings 20% extra performance, all amd have to do is come within 10% on performance and below on price?
    Reply
  • Akabeth - Thursday, June 19, 2008 - link

    Jebuzzz

    This pretty much makes it pointless to purchase any high tier mobo and quad core today... It will be eclipsed in 6 months time...

    Some of the numbers here make me wonder, "Are you f*cking kidding me?"
    Reply
  • JumpingJack - Friday, June 13, 2008 - link

    Anand, you could clear up some confusion if you could specify the version of windows you ran. The screen shots of some of your benchmarks show 64-bit Vista, yet your scores are inline with 32-bit Vista.... it makes a difference.
    Reply
  • JumpingJack - Friday, June 13, 2008 - link

    Nevermind, page 2 shows 32-bit Vista... makes sense now. You should becareful when posting stock photos, the Cinbench reflects 64-bit. Reply
  • barnierubble - Sunday, June 08, 2008 - link

    It appears to me that the Tick Tock cycle diagram is wrong.

    Conroe shooked the world in the second half of 2006, Penryn came in the second half of 2007, now 2008 we have Nehalem on the horizon set for the second half of this year.

    Now that is 2 years between new architectures with the intermediate year bringing a shrink derivative.

    That is not what the diagram shows; bracketing shrink derivative and new architecture in a 2 year cycle is clearly not fitting the reality.

    Reply
  • mbf - Saturday, June 07, 2008 - link

    Will the new IMC support ECC RAM? And if so, what are the odds the consumer versions will too? I've had a bit of bad luck with memory errors in the past. Since then I swear by ECC memory, even though it costs me a bit of performance. :) Reply
  • Natima - Saturday, June 07, 2008 - link

    I just thought I'd point out that the Bloomfield chip reviewed (to be released in H2 2008) will infact dominate the gamer/high-end market.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nehalem_(microarchite...">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nehalem_(microarchite...

    The smaller sockets will be for what I like to call... "office PC's".
    And the larger socket for high-end servers.

    A majority of custom PC builders will be able to buy & use Nehalems by the end of the year. Hoorah!
    Reply
  • Natima - Saturday, June 07, 2008 - link

    The article semi-implied that chips for the PC enthusiast would not be out until mid-2009. Just wanted to clarify this for people. Reply

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