The 9th Soul

Intel’s Core i7 Passes Muster

Posted in internet news, technology by Fated Blue on November 4, 2008

Intel Corp.’s next big shift in chip design is receiving strong early reviews from Web sites that test computer hardware.

Intel Core i7 processor

Intel Core i7 processor

The first desktop PCs using a chip family called Intel Core i7 — code-named Nehalem — were found to handle some computing chores 30% to 40% faster than other comparable Intel chips, according to test results published by Web sites that include ExtremeTech, LegitReviews and AnandTech. Performance gains were particularly impressive for tasks such as video encoding and rendering three-dimensional images, the reviewers said.

Machines based on Core i7 chips were not much faster for some games and other standard software, the Web sites reported. The machines also consume more power than some existing Intel chips, indicating that the first model won’t be suitable for portable computers.

“We know it’s going to be the de facto chip for high-end desktops,” predicted Kelt Reeves, president of Falcon Northwest, a company that manufactures PCs for gamers and other performance enthusiasts. “Already we’ve had huge interest.”

Systems based on the new chips are not expected to go on sale until Nov. 17. But Intel provided sample chips to reviewers, who published their findings Monday. The sites also published pricing for the chips, which ranges from $284 for a model that operates at 2.66 gigahertz to $999 for an “Extreme Edition” model for gamers that operates at 3.2 gigahertz.

Silicon wafer showing Nehalem circuitry

Silicon wafer showing Nehalem circuitry

The Core i7 gets its speed from a series of major design changes that exploit Intel’s advanced production processes — including a feature called an integrated memory controller that was pioneered by rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Each chip has the equivalent of four calculating engines — each of which can simultaneously complete up to two instructions–and has a pipeline to fetch data from memory chips with more than twice the capacity of prior chips, said Steve Smith, an Intel vice president and director of operations for its digital enterprise group.

Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., is also adding a feature that automatically boosts the operating speed of the chip for some chores. In addition, through a technique called over-clocking, some reviewers have operated the 3.2 gigahertz Extreme Edition model at up to 5 gigahertz, Mr. Smith said.

Intel is expected to introduce a Core i7 model for servers in the first half of 2009 and a model for portables in the second half.

AMD, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., is reserving its next performance boost for servers. It is expected to introduce a chip this month, code-named Shanghai, that is its first to adopt a sophisticated manufacturing process that Intel already uses for many of its products.

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