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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  • kilkennycat - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Isn't 6GB of RAM a pretty sweet spot for desktop 64-bit applications, whatever about servers? Reply
  • jimmysmitty - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Well I have been waiting for Nehalem. I gave in and decided to build a rig with the Q6600 but kinda sad now.

    Anwways. Crank the Planet, hes not showing fanboyism. He stated Intel has been promising 20-30% increase with Nehalem. They are seeing 20-50% from these benchmarks. Take 21 and divide it by 14 that gives you 1.5. That means that the AMD Phenoms latency is about 50% slower.

    If anything you are showing fanboyism. Nehalem is showing to be one hell of a chip and you are just angry that AMD has nothing to compare to it. Even after AMD finishes absorbing ATI whats next, K10.5 aka Deneb? Thats just a 45nm refresh (just like Penryn was for Conroe). Unless there are some major changes in the architecture it will just, hopefully, make Phenom run at higher clocks and cooler.

    Other than that I can't wait to see what this does for games. I know that most games are more GPU dependant but I myself play mainly Valve games using Source and thats very CPU dependant and already runs great on my Q6600 but I want to see what this game will do for their particle and physics system...
    Reply
  • Nehemoth - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Please, Please, Please Intel I would to have this monsters chip in our servers without the annoying FBD, I don't want hoty FBD bring me normal DDR2 (without FBD) or DDR3.

    Just what I ask.

    Reply
  • Griswold - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    I'm a big fan of multi-core systems, but I'm not blind to reality: Why no single threaded benchmarks, but only benchmarks that scale very good with more cores/SMT? By the time these things will be on the market, most applikations will still be single threaded and you know it...

    I just want to know how much faster it is per clock per core.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Interestingly enough, none of our standard CPU benchmarks are single threaded at all - even the most benign ones are multithreaded (including the games). I did run some single thread Cinebench numbers though:

    Nehalem - 3015
    Q9450 - 2396
    Reply
  • bradley - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Why is there such a large discrepancy between previous single-threaded Cinebench tests from six months ago: where the Q9450 scored a 2944, or a mere 2.4% decrease, compared to the current 2396, or a more substantial 20.5% decrease.

    http://www.anandtech.com/printarticle.aspx?i=3153">http://www.anandtech.com/printarticle.aspx?i=3153

    I too believe single-threaded benches should be the foundation of any meaningful and relevant cpu review, if time indeed was permitting. To me this is the greatest objective real-world equalizer. There just isn't enough multi-threaded software out there, much less software able to run all eight cores. I would also like to emphasize that unlike server chips, desktop Nehalems will only have two memory channels. And as I understand, hyper threading also will only make an appearance in server and enthusiast chipsets. So already this makes an accurate comparison difficult enough.

    Finally, I understand the avg visitor will treat this like any good entertainment, where one is meant to suspend his-her disbelief. Still I have a hard time believing anyone has the ability to abscond away such important chips from a huge corporation like Intel. "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." That initial premise does make anything coming after less impactful, or seemingly less than straightforward.

    Certainly if history has taught us anything, we know final shipping silicon is sometimes quite different from test chips. We should also assume it's a lot easier to create ond one chip than manufacture hundreds of thousands on a large scale. Nothing is ever a given, which makes it hard to draw much of a conclusion. Interesting preview nonetheless.
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Monday, July 28, 2008 - link

    Shhhhh... gosh we have to have core hype ... and the multicore testers have to optimize for the coming chips... geeze they have to make a living somehow...
    ( You sir, are exactly correct, but we live in a strange world nowadays where the truth is so evident it must be hidden most of the time for various other reasons... )
    Gosh, you want to crash the whole economy with that sane and rational talk ?
    What are you an anarchist ? ( yes I'm kidding, that was a big high five to you)
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Ignore those numbers (check page 6 of the comments for an explanation), the Q9450 comes in at 2931 vs. Nehalem's 3015.

    -A
    Reply
  • pnyffeler - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    I'm not a Mac person, but I think Mac's may benefit from this technology even more than Vista. As I recall from a previous Anandtech article, Mac's have an excellent memory management system, which very direct benefit in increasing memory size. The increased bandwidth could make the snazzy OS even better... Reply
  • Visual - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    It is great that your "clock for clock" comparisons to the penryn in encoding and rendering are showing an improvement... but could that improvement be from the doubled amount of virtual processors that are visible? Are all of these benchmarks using eight or four threads on the nehalem? Reply

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