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Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Intel Core i7-920

1. About the Intel Core i7 series

Intel had announced the new i7 core series a long time ago. The new series of processors feature some interesting improvements over the previous C2D series. The most noticeable change is the new LGA 1366 socket that the Core i7 uses, meaning that it works in a new motherboard, as well as the support for triple DDR3 memory. All the latest Nehalem processors come with a 8MB L2 cache and the FSB has been replaced by the Intel QuickPath Interconnect architecture, which achieves data transfer speeds as high as 25.6 GB/s. Besides these obvious changes, Intel the Core i7 series are considered as the company's first "real" Quad core processor incorporating multiple cores on a single processor die.

Moreover, the Core i7 processors eliminate the need for the Northbridge chipset to manage system memory and link it to the processor with an integrated, on-die memory controller which links the processor directly to the system memory. This is what AMD Phenom series have been using for sometime now, so we are excited to see Intel improving the way it manages the available memory resources, which will hopefully lead to a better performance. More information for the Core i7 is available at the Intel' s white paper.

Below you can see a summary of the important features of the Core i7 processors.

Feature Benefit
Quad Core Processing Provides four independent execution cores in one processor package. Four dedicated processing cores help operating systems and applications deliver additional performance, so end users can experience better multitasking and multithreaded performance across many types of applications and workloads.
Intel Hyper-Threading Technology Delivers two processing threads per physical core for a total of eight threads for massive computational throughput. With Intel Hyper-Threading Technology, highly threaded applications can get more work done in parallel, completing tasks sooner. With more threads available to the operating system, multitasking becomes even easier. This amazing processor can handle multiple applications working simultaneously, allowing you to do more with less wait time.
Intel Turbo Boost Technology Dynamically increases the processor's frequency as needed by taking advantage of thermal and power head-room when operating below specified limits. Get more performance automatically, when you need it the most.
8 MB IntelSmart Cache Dynamically increases the processor's frequency as needed by taking advantage of thermal and power head-room when operating below specified limits. Get more performance automatically, when you need it the most.
Intel QuickPath Interconnect Intel's latest system interconnect design increases bandwidth and lowers latency, while achieving data transfer speeds as high as 25.6 GB/s.
Integrated Memory Controller An integrated memory controller with three channels of DDR3 1066 MHz offers memory performance up to 25.6 GB/s. Combined with the processor's efficient prefetching algorithms, this memory controller's lower latency and higher memory bandwidth delivers amazing performance for data-intensive applications.
IntelHD Boost Includes the full SSE4 instruction set, significantly improving a broad range of multimedia and compute-intensive applications. The 128-bit SSE instructions are issued at a throughput rate of one per clock cycle allowing a new level of processing efficiency with SSE4-optimized applications.
Digital Thermal Sensor (DTS) Provides for more efficient processor and platform thermal control improving system acoustics. The DTS continuously measures the temperature at each processing core. The ability to continuously measure and detect variations in processor temperature enables system fans to spin only as fast as needed to cool the system. The combination of these technologies can result in significantly lower noise emissions from the PC.
IntelWide Dynamic Execution Improves execution speed and efficiency, delivering more instructions per clock cycle. Each core can complete up to four full instructions simultaneously.
IntelSmart Memory Access Improves system performance by optimizing the use of the available data bandwidth from the memory subsystem and reducing the effective latency of memory accesses.

The Core i7 series of CPUs include three models. retail price. The i7-965 features a higher clock speed and a faster QuickPath Interconnect that further boosts performance. Looking at the retail price, the lower-end i7-920 CPU is an interesting solution priced at $289, while the i7-940 rumps up to $540 and the highest-end i7-965 up to $999. While the i7-965 is very expensive, it has two features that overclockers will love: the overspeed protection has been removed and there is not any multiplier lock. The TDP is at 130 Watts - which is still high for a Quad core CPU- but the 45nm design should be able to deliver high speeds without requiring the use of huge CPU coolers.

Cores/Threads Clock Speed Intel QuickPath Interconnect Intel Smart Cache Silicon Turbo Boost
4 / 8
3.0 GHz
6.4 GT/sec
8 MB
45 nm
Up to 3.46 GHz Boost
4 / 8
2.93 GHz
4.8 GT/sec
8 MB
45 nm
Up to 3.46 GHz Boost
4/ 8
2.66 GHz
4.8 GT/sec
8 MB
45 nm
Up to 3.46 GHz Boost

An additional feature of the new CPUs is the Turbo Boost that adds more performance to your system. This gain is noticeable in cases where an application actually uses all four cores of the processor. The CPU-Z software will report some additional 133Mhz to the running speed of the CPU when the Turbo Boost is enabled. Of course, it can be turned off from the motherboard BIOS.

We should also mention here that the Core i7 processors are working together with a motherboard based on the new X58 chipset.

More information on the Intel i7-920 series is available over Intel's web site.

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