Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Close Look at Intel Core i7 Processor.

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Intel officially released their new generation processor on November 17, 2008, it is considered as the follower of Intel Core 2 Quad.

About this time last year Intel launched what was the fastest 45nm quad core CPU on the planet, the Intel Core 2 Quad QX9770. Well, guess what, Intel has done it again with the latest architectural achievement, the Core I7 Extreme 965. What the two have is common is that they both are based on Penryn cores, they both are 45 nanometer chips and they both run at a clock speed of 3.2GHz. After these things what you have is a whole new animal. Gone from this chip is the twelve megabytes of L2 cache, this is replaced by a third level of cache at 8MB. Slow and inefficient it is not. With the addition of an integrated memory controller, the memory bandwidth is expected to be huge by comparison to today's top of the line processors, somewhere close to two to three times the peak bandwidth. SMT (Simultaneous Multi Threading) has made a return on the Core I7 generation. This will enable the processor to run a total of eight threads at one time. Some other new features are Dynamic Energy Management, new SSE4 instructions, three level cache with a shared 8MB L3 cache and improved branch prediction. Many are interested in the new efficiencies and features, while many think this generation will be the Holy Grail of processors, Lets find out just how it performs. That's the question that is on everyone's mind.
Intel, as you know, has been leading its smaller rival AMD in the performance sweeps for some time now, with a virtually unbroken lead since the debut of the first Core 2 processors more than two years ago. Even so, AMD has retained a theoretical (and sometimes practical) advantage in terms of basic system architecture throughout that time; thanks to the changes it introduced with its original K8 (Athlon 64 and Opteron) processors five years back. Those changes included the integration of the memory controller onto the CPU die, the elimination of the front-side bus, and its replacement with a fast, narrow chip-to-chip interconnect known as HyperTransport. Justify FullThis system architecture has served AMD quite well, particularly in multi-socket servers, where the Opteron became a formidable player in very short order and has retained a foothold even with AMD's recent struggles.
Now, Intel aims to rob AMD of that advantage by introducing new system architecture of its own, one that mirror's AMD's in key respects but is intended to be newer, faster, and better. At the heart of this project is a new microprocessor, code-named Nehalem during its development and now officially christened as the Core i7.
Intel Core i7 is a family of three Intel desktop x86-64 processors, the first processors released using the Intel Nehalem microarchitecture and the successor to the Intel Core 2 family. All three current models and two upcoming models are quad-core processors. The Core i7 identifier applies to the initial family of processors codenamed Bloomfield. Intel representatives state that the moniker Core i7 does not have any deeper meaning. The name continues the use of the successful Core brand. Core i7, first assembled in Costa Rica, was officially launched on November 17, 2008 and is manufactured in Arizona, New Mexico and Oregon, though the Oregon plant is moving to the next generation 32 nm process.

Product Information (from Intel website)

• 2.93 GHz and 2.66 GHz core speed
• 8 processing threads with Intel® HT technology
• 8 MB of Intel® Smart Cache
• 3 Channels of DDR3 1066 MHz memory

With faster, intelligent, multi-core technology that applies processing power where it's needed most, new Intel® Core™ i7 processors deliver an incredible breakthrough in PC performance. They are the best desktop processors on the planet.
You'll multitask applications faster and unleash incredible digital media creation. And you'll experience maximum performance for everything you do, thanks to the combination of Intel® Turbo Boost technology and Intel® Hyper-Threading technology (Intel® HT technology), which maximizes performance to match your workload.


• The Inquirer managed to get a 965 engineering sample to a core clock speed of up 4GHz with fan cooling and Turbo Booster alone.
• IT OC Taiwan overclocked an engineering sample of the 965, to 4.20 GHz with a QPI speed of 200 MHz and a multiplier value of 21.0x. A vCore setting of 1.72V was used, which is far higher than the stock of 1.25V.
• A Core i7 940 system running at stock speeds has obtained a 3DMark Vantage benchmark CPU score of 17,966. A Core i7 920 system scored 16,294 running at stock speeds. An Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770, a very expensive member of the previous generation of Intel processors (costing over four times the price of the 920 at its launch), scored 13,182 also running at stock speeds.
• AnandTech tested the Intel QuickPath Interconnect (4.8 GT/s version) and found the copy bandwidth using triple-channel 1066 MHz DDR3 was 12.0 GB/s. A 3.0 GHz Core 2 Quad system using dual-channel 1066 MHz DDR3 achieved 6.9 GB/s.
• Maximum PC has discovered that Intel has unlocked the clock and memory multipliers on retail 920's and 940's. This is allegedly due to consumer feedback.
• Core i7-975 will have the new D0 Stepping.

Closer Look

When you look at the Nehalem CPUs by themselves you have to wonder what makes them so much different than the previous generation. On the left is the I7 965 Extreme Edition that features a non turbo multiplier of 24 and is unlocked both up and down. Couple the 24 multiplier with the 133MHz base clock frequency and you end up at 3.20GHz. The I7 920 is at the other end of the spectrum and has a maximum non turbo clock multiplier of 20 for a base clock speed of 2.66GHz, in turbo mode this will jump as high as 22 for a turbo speed of 2.93GHz, the same base frequency of the I7 940. To accommodate this massive chip the socket pin count is up to 1366 from the Core 2 processors 775 pin count.

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