Two years ago in Taiwan at Computex 2006 Gary Key and I stayed up all night benchmarking the Core 2 Extreme X6800, the first Core micro-architecture (Conroe core) CPU we had laid our hands on. While Intel retroactively applied its tick-tock model to previous CPU generations, it was the Core micro-architecture and the Core 2 Duo in particular that kicked it all off.

At the end of last year we saw the first update to Core, the first post-Conroe "tick" if you will: Penryn. Penryn proved to be a nice upgrade to Conroe, reducing power consumption even further and giving a slight boost to performance. What Penryn didn't do however was shake the world the way Conroe did upon its launch in 2006.

 

After every tick however, comes a tock. While Penryn was a die shrink of an existing architecture, Nehalem is a brand new architecture built on the same 45nm process as Penryn. It's sort of a big deal, being the first tock after the incredibly successful Core 2 launch.

 
731M transistors, four cores, eight threads

It's like clockwork with Intel; around six months before the release of a new processor, it's sent over to Intel's partners so they may begin developing motherboards for the chip. It was true with Northwood, Prescott, Conroe, Penryn and now Nehalem. And plus, did you really expect, on the eve of the two year anniversary of our first Core 2 preview, a trip to Taiwan for Computex without benchmarks of Nehalem? In the words of Balki Bartokomous, don't be ridiculous :)


Yep, that's what you think it is

Without Intel's approval, supervision, blessing or even desire - we went ahead and snagged us a Nehalem (actually, two) and spent some time with them.

(Sorry guys, stop making interesting chips and we'll stop trying to get an early look at them :)...)

Not One Nehalem, but Two
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  • mkruer - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Not a problem.

    I tend not to take most things at face value. Looking at the Nehalem, its focus was to increase the multi threaded performance, not the single thread app per say. This would put it more inline with what AMD is offering on per core scalability. The Nehalem will get Intel back into the big iron scalability that it lost to AMD.

    My guess is that the Nehalem will not give users any real advantage playing games or other single threaded apps, unless the game or app supports more then one thread.

    The final question is poised back to AMD. If AMD gets their single threaded IPC and clock speed up, then both platforms should be near identical from a performance standpoint. Then it is just down to price, manufacturing and distribution. I just hope that AMD claims of 15-20% improvement in per core IPC are true. This should make this holiday season much more interesting.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Nehalem most definitely had a server focus coming up, but I wouldn't underestimate what the IMC will do for CPU-bound gaming performance. Don't forget what the IMC did for the K8 vs. Athlon XP way back when...

    As far as AMD goes, clock speed issues should get resolved with the move to 45nm. The IPC stuff should get taken care of with Bulldozer, the question is when can we expect Bulldozer?
    Reply
  • JumpingJack - Saturday, June 07, 2008 - link

    Don't count on 45 nm clocking up much higher than 65 nm, maybe another bin or so.... gate leakage and SCE are limiting and the reason for the sideways move from 90 to 65 nm to begin with (traditional gate ox, SiO2, did not scale 90 to 65 nm) ... the next chance for a decent clock bump will come with their inclusion of HKMG. Which from the rumor mill isn't until 1H09.
    Reply
  • fitten - Friday, June 06, 2008 - link

    AMD hasn't really resolved any clock speed issues from the move from 130nm -> 90nm -> 65nm (look at the top speed 130nm parts compared to the top speed 65nm parts). During some of those transitions, the introductory parts actually were slower clocked than the higher clocked of the previous process and didn't even catch up for some time. Reply
  • bcronce - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Does anyone know why Intel is claiming NUMA on these? I'm assuming you need a multi-cpu system for such uses, but how is the memory segmented that it's NUMA? Reply
  • bcronce - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Seems Arstechnica(http://arstechnica.com/articles/paedia/cpu/what-yo...">http://arstechnica.com/articles/paedia/...-you-nee... has info on NUMA.

    Assuming more than 1 node being used, each node connects to the Memmory hub and gets assigned it's own *default* memory bank. A one node computer won't see any diff, but a 2-4 node will get a default memory bank and reduced latencies. A node can interleave the data amoung the 2-4 memory banks, but DDR3 is freak'n fast and probably best just streaming from your own bank to reduce contention amoung the nodes.
    Reply
  • RobberBaron - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    I think there are going to be other issues revolving around this chip. For example:

    http://www.fudzilla.com/index.php?option=com_conte...">http://www.fudzilla.com/index.php?optio...amp;task...


    Nvidia's Director or PR, Derek Perez, has told Fudzilla that Intel actually won't let Nvidia make its Nforce chipset that will work with Intel's Nehalem generation of processors.

    We confirmed this from Intel’s side, as well as other sources. Intel told us that there won't be an Nvidia's chipset for Nehalem. Nvidia will call this a "dispute between companies that they are trying to solve privately," but we believe it's much more than that.
    Reply
  • AmberClad - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    That still leaves you with CrossFire and cards with multiple GPUs like the 9800 X2. It's a tiny fraction of the market that actually uses SLI anyway.

    Eh, who knows, maybe Nvidia will finally cave and grant that SLI license, and we'll finally have decent chipsets with SLI.
    Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Agreed, as much as I love NV GPUs, I'm tired of having SLI tied to NV's buggy chipsets. Realistically I'd probably just get an Intel chipset with Nehalem even if there was an Nforce SLI variant and just go with the fastest single-GPU processor. Reply
  • Baked - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Maybe I can finally grab that E8400 when it drops to $50. Reply

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