Note: This article was not condoned or supported in any way by Intel. We obtained all pre-release hardware on our own. Enjoy.

The Recap

Yeech, ok, this is more complicated than it should be. Last year Intel launched its brand new Nehalem architecture, the first processor was codenamed Bloomfield and sold as the Core i7.


Nehalem - Bloomfield, aka Core i7

The Core i7 has four cores (with Hyper Threading, so that’s 8 threads), an 8MB L3 cache and a triple-channel DDR3 memory controller. Of course there’s a lot of other special sauce that makes the i7 the beast that it is; if you want more details check out my original Nehalem architecture article.

Since its launch, i7 has only been available in three flavors: the 920, 940 and 965. The most affordable one, the i7-920, costs $284 in 1Ku quantities.

Processor Clock Speed Cores / Threads Maximum Single Core Turbo Frequency TDP Price
Intel Core i7-965 Extreme 3.20GHz 4 / 8 3.46GHz 130W $999
Intel Core i7-940 2.93GHz 4 / 8 3.20GHz 130W $562
Intel Core i7-920 2.66GHz 4 / 8 2.93GHz 130W $284

 

The Core i7 fits into Intel’s new LGA-1366 socket and is mated with Intel’s X58 chipset:

With the memory controller on-die, the X58 chipset acts like a PCIe switch than anything else; all other I/O (e.g. USB, SATA, Ethernet, etc...) go through the ICH10 which is connected to the X58 hub.

Despite being a relatively simple piece of silicon, Intel prices the X58 chipset as a premium product. The X58 chipset is more expensive than any other desktop Intel chipset on the market, that includes P45 and X48. In turn, X58 motherboards are pricey.

At launch X58 motherboards sold for well above $200 and it took a while for us to see boards finally drop down to and below that $200 price point. Only recently have we found a motherboard that’s even somewhat affordable with MSI’s X58M priced at $169.

With a $200 motherboard and a $284 CPU, the i7 was priced out of competing with even AMD’s highest end Phenom II. While the Phenom II X4 955 costs $245, you can easily pair it with a $100 motherboard.

Rather than drive LGA-1366 pricing down, Intel had another plan - to introduce a more mainstream platform for Nehalem.

Making Nehalem Affordable: LGA-1156
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  • Jabbernyx - Monday, June 01, 2009 - link

    You're forgetting the $10 off promo code and 5% Live cashback ;) Reply
  • Randomblame - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link

    Anyone else irritated that when this launches intel will have 5 sockets going?

    Shall we count em?
    lga 775 core 2
    lga 1366 i7
    lga 1160 lynfield
    lga 771 xeon penryn
    lga 611 itanium

    Did I miss any?

    Reply
  • Anonymous Freak - Sunday, May 31, 2009 - link

    If you're going to include Itanium; you might as well include the mobile sockets as well.

    Last October, Intel had one desktop, three server, and two mobile sockets:

    LGA775 on the desktop was it.
    LGA771 for dual Xeon, PGA-604 for quad-plus Xeon. (And LGA775 for single-socket servers, where the processors were just Core 2 series processors slapped with a "Xeon" name on them, so I'm keeping that with 'desktop'.) PAC-611 is Itanium.
    Socket M is the slightly older mobile socket, Socket P is the newer. One could say that Socket M was already dead in October.

    Early next year, we will have three desktop, two server, and two mobile sockets.
    LGA 775 will be the low-end Core 2 socket, LGA 1366 for i7, and LGA 1156 for Lynnfield. Lynnfield should overtake Core 2 very quickly, especially after the integrated-graphics chips come out, and drop to two desktop sockets, though.
    LGA 1366 doubles as the single and dual server socket; and the new "Nehalem EX" will in all likelihood have a new socket shared with the new Itanium (from reasonable guesses, anyway.)
    Mobile will have just Socket P until the mobile Nehalems launch, when a new mobile Nehalem socket will be out.

    Sorry, but LGA 771 is already dead. Its processors are completely obsolete at this point, by Nehalem-EP. And PGA-604 (which you missed,) as well as PAC-611, will be obsoleted by the Nehalem-EX socket. (Again, just guessing. The entire point of QPI was to make Xeon and Itanium share resources, so I would imagine they would use the same socket. Especially with Xeons now at higher power draw than even the highest draw Itanium; there is no reason for Itanium's goofy socket-with-power-pod arrangement any more.
    Reply
  • Drazick - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link

    Though the system looks good.
    I really liked the one chip Idea (Chipset).

    I hope Intel eventually let nVidia develop chipsets for this platform.

    Why don't you think the regular PCIE X16 lane in this system is enough for GPGPU? It might not be the best but for Encoding some movies and Accelerating Matlab it should be enough, no?
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Saturday, May 30, 2009 - link

    I didn't mean to imply that 16 PCIe 2.0 lanes aren't enough for GPGPU. But if you're doing a *lot* of compute over the PCIe bus, perhaps over multiple very high end GPUs, then you'll probably want QPI. This is more of a HPC or head-in-the-clouds-desktop scenario though.

    It should be more than enough for GPU based video encode or math.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • ssj4Gogeta - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link

    Even if Intel allows Nvidia, they can't make integrated graphics for i5 because the chip is connected to the chipset via 2 GB/s DMI, which will bottleneck it. Reply
  • Doormat - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link

    Until the price of 4GB DDR3 sticks come down (and I could put 16GB of RAM on the board), I think the i7 is where its at. At least with i7, I can go with 12GB now and then upgrade to 24GB later (12GB I need, 24GB I don't know...). Reply
  • A5 - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link

    If you NEED 12GB, then Lynnfield isn't going to be for you. Intel would much rather you use Xeons for that kind of workload anyway :P Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link

    So with mainstream Nehalems not having any QPI links and high-end Nehalems with QPI not needing them, are third-party IGPs dead? It seems that even if nVidia can win their legal issues with Intel, the technical challenges of being limited to DMI seem to make the Intel chipset business unprofitable. Higher priced chipsets with IGPs would be bandwidth limited over DMI and just making southbridges doesn't seem very glamourous or profitable. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Saturday, May 30, 2009 - link

    NVIDIA claims to have DMI based IGPs in development for LGA-1156 platforms. We'll see how good they are and if they do end up coming to market despite the legal issues.

    In the long run I don't expect the 3rd party chipset business to survive on either platform (AMD or Intel). Unless either company is horribly deficient at some basic platform need I'd expect desktop and mobile AMD CPUs to use AMD chipsets and for desktop and mobile Intel CPUs to use Intel chipsets. It may take a couple of years to get there but I think the end result is inevitable.

    I believe that's why we're seeing such a strong push from NVIDIA lately with things like Ion. Attempting to stay put when we know what the tide is about to do is a difficult task.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply

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