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Intel Core I7 Review

ccokeman    -   November 2, 2008
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Conclusion:

In real world applications the Nehalem processors are a major step forward from the last generation processors from Intel. In applications that can use the additional memory bandwidth and cores the increase in performance is staggering. In the WinRAR testing it took the I7 965 30% less time to compress our 500MB reference file than the QX9770, this without the aid of the Turbo Boost feature. When comparing the I7 920 to the Q9450, the reduction in time to compress the same file was almost 27% less than the Q9450. Just gaining 10 or 15% worth of increase is huge without an increase to the clock speed of the processor. More work at the same speed equals a win in my book. The Cinebench scores were another area where using eight threads shows a nice bump in performance. Again, real world apps are where the performance increase will be. Now, if more work needs to be done the Turbo Boost technology, when enabled, will give your processor a nice boost, without touching a thing in the BIOS. This is accomplished by boosting the clock speed of multiple cores to accomplish the work. If more work needs to be done more cores come online to help out. Add this to the increase in bandwidth of almost three times that of the Core 2 processors and X48 based motherboards. Yes, three time the bandwidth. All of the base performance numbers can be increased above the level allowed with the Turbo Boost technology by overclocking. Yes, contrary to some rumors the Nehalem can be overclocked, even the lowly I7 920. With the I7 965 I was able to touch just above 4.0GHz but not stable enough to run my benchmarks that came at 3.97GHz. Temperatures were just a bit on the hot side at this level, even with the TRUE. Now the I7 920 was able to push the DX58SO to the baseclock limit on this board at 155MHz for a top speed of 3.1GHz. When dynamic overclocking was enabled this would result in a speed of 3.4GHZ but was subject to some throttling of the processor. Overclocking? Yes it does! I can't wait to see the performance on the major motherboard manufacturers' boards.

Many of the gamers in the world were expecting massive performance increases with this generation of processor. Well, sorry to disappoint. The good news is that it does not lose much in terms of performance when compared to the Core 2 processors. Why is this, you ask? Well, how many games are there that are multi-threaded and can actually use the additional CPU cores as a way to increase performance? How many times have you seen similarly clocked dual core vs. quad core comparisons where there is no real performance increase from the additional cores? Once the games are coded to make use of this CPU then there really will be something to talk about when it comes to game performance. But for the time being, multi-threaded applications will be where the biggest bang for the buck is. So where does that come into use for the home user? Well, how many times have you sat for an hour or more waiting for that DVD you made of your summer vacation to be encoded? Working with high definition content in this increasingly visual world we live in will be easier with programs that already utilize multiple threads. For those of you who run distributed computing projects, the additional four threads will allow more work to be done in a given time. Why is this something of value? Well, the project that OCC participates in is Folding @ Home, a project that helps search for cures for diseases such as Cancer, Alzheimer's, Mad Cow (BSE), Parkinson's, ALS and others. More work done in a set amount of time means that more results are compiled, hopefully finding some relief so that no one has to experience any of these dreadful diseases. With any new processor the pricing can seem to get out of hand. When the 45nm Q9450 was introduced the price was just under $400 for a 2.66GHz clock speed quad core CPU. The I7 920 goes for less than $300 at $284 bucks, with the I7 940 at $562 and the Extreme I7 965 at $999. The Extreme editions will always go for a premium but the 920 and 940 seem to be priced in the reasonable range, making them affordable for the Christmas buying season.

Offering massive performance increases for people who need their computers to "work" and not play, the Nehalem is just what the doctor ordered. Gaining time and productivity are the aim of a processor of this caliber. Making it a little greener always helps as well. Getting the work done faster for less energy consumed is where the future is headed. Welcome to the future.

 

Pros:

  • Real world performance
  • Price
  • Turbo Boost (dynamic overclocking)
  • Overclocking
  • Memory bandwidth
  • Return of hyperthreading
  • Comparable game performance

 

Cons:

  • Hot when overclocked
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