Intel has big plans for its little chips. The chipmaker is looking to the future with its Intel Core i7 microarchitecture, code-named Nehalem, which is being described as "mind-blowing" by some observers after it was offered for review earlier this month.
Nehalem, the successor to Intel's Core microarchitecture, spans a range of products, but the first group of products will include the Intel Core i7 processor.
More than 100 of the first reviews have come in, according to Intel, and reviewers from all over the world are touting its performance. Computer Shopper said the Intel Core i7 represented huge performance jumps over previous generations, while Techgage said some of the performance gains were simply mind-blowing.
Intel plans to launch the Core i7 in San Francisco on Nov. 17, according to Intel spokesperson George Alfs. "Third-party reviews have hit the Web, and they are extremely positive," he said. "This is an entirely new architecture, with new high-speed infrastructure. We feel this is the fastest processor on the planet."
All in the Details
Kirk Skaugen, general manager of Intel's Server Platforms Group, shared some details of the high-end desktops powered by the Intel Core i7, and echoed what others are saying about its top-notch performance for gaming and content-creation applications.
The Intel Core i7 processor comes with interesting features, including QuickPath Interconnect, which provides communication between chips and replaces the Front Side Bus. Moving on to its more energy-efficient features, Intel also previewed its Turbo Boost technology, which turns off unused processor cores and uses active cores more efficiently. Power is not wasted, while performance increases.
Intel has also introduced a new Overspeed Protection feature. By monitoring both core voltages, Intel effectively caps the maximum power at 130 watts.
"It's a ground-up design, and we started from scratch looking to create the highest-performance processor on the market and the most power-efficient processor," said Ronak Singhal, a computer-processor architect. "The key thing is we had a maniacal focus on power efficiency in Nehalem in order for it to be the best product going everywhere from notebooks to servers."
Not So Perfect
But not all is perfect about the Intel Core i7, according to reviewers. One problem is that the new processors will not fit into traditional motherboard sockets, so users will need a new motherboard. The i7 also does not support DDR2 memory.
Some, however, say that is a small price to pay for all the new features, including the memory controller, which now supports three rather than two channels of memory and is on the processor rather than a separate chip.
"Industry and Intel have a range of motherboards that are available now to accommodate our new processors," Alfs said. "Both the Core i7 and industry infrastructure is ready to go and will extend our already significant performance leadership in microprocessors."
First shipments of products with the Nehalem microarchitecture will include the Intel Core i7 processor and a variant designed for the efficient-performance server segments, code-named Nehalem-EP. Another version designed for the server market segment, code-named Nehalem-EX, as well as other desktop and mobile versions, including Havendale, Lynnfield, Auburndale and Clarksfield, will be in production beginning in the second half of 2009.
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