Intel is on the verge of transitioning to 32nm. We'll see the first parts this year. What do you do with your 45nm fabs when you start moving volume away from them? Make really cheap quad-core Nehalems of course:

I'm talking $196. I'm talking faster than AMD's entire lineup. I'm talking about arguably the best processor of 2009. I'm talking about Lynnfield, and here's its backside:


Mmm

I spent much of the past year harping on AMD selling Nehalem-sized Phenom IIs for less than Intel sold Nehalems. With Lynnfield, Intel actually made Nehalem even bigger all while driving prices down. Like I said, what do you do when you're still making boatloads of money in a recession and are about to start emptying your 45nm fabs?

I should clear things up before we progress much further. Lynnfield is the codename for mainstream 45nm quad-core Nehalem, while Bloomfield refers to the first Nehalem launched at the end of 2008:

Processor Manufacturing Process Die Size Transistor Count Socket
Bloomfield 45nm 263 mm2 731M LGA-1366
Lynnfield 45nm 296 mm2 774M LGA-1156

Despite being cheaper, Lynnfield is larger than Bloomfield. The larger die is due to one major addition: an on-die PCIe controller.


Bloomfield, The First Nehalem, circa 2008


Lynnfield, Nehalem for All, circa 2009

The pink block to the right of the die is the PCIe controller, that's 16 PCIe 2.0 lanes coming right off the chip. Say hello to ultra low latency GPU communication. You'd think that Intel was about to enter the graphics market or something with a design like this.

Sacrifices were made to reduce CPU, socket and board complexity. Gone are the two QPI links that each provided 25.6GB/s of bandwidth to other CPUs or chips on the motherboard. We also lose one of the three 64-bit DDR3 memory channels, Lynnfield only has two like a normal processor (silly overachieving Bloomfield).


Intel's Bloomfield Platform (X58 + LGA-1366)

The sum is that Lynnfield is exclusively single-socket; there will be no LGA-1156 Skulltrail. While the dual-channel memory controller isn't really a limitation for quad-core parts, six and eight core designs may be better suited for LGA-1366.


Intel's Lynnfield Platform (P55 + LGA-1156)

The loss of QPI means that Lynnfield doesn't have a super fast connection to the rest of the system, but with an on-die PCIe controller it doesn't matter: the GPU is fed right off the CPU.

The Lineup

We get three Lynnfield CPUs today: the Core i7 870, Core i7 860 and the Core i5 750. Intel's branding folks told us that the naming would make sense one we saw the rest of the "Core" parts introduced; yeah that was pretty much a lie. At least there aren't any overlapping part numbers (e.g. Core i5 860 and Core i7 860).

The i7 in this case denotes four cores + Hyper Threading, the i5 means four cores but no Hyper Threading. The rules get more complicated as you bring notebooks into the fray but let's momentarily bask in marginal simplicity.

Processor Clock Speed Cores / Threads Maximum Single Core Turbo Frequency TDP Price
Intel Core i7-975 Extreme 3.33GHz 4 / 8 3.60GHz 130W $999
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
Intel Core i7 870 2.93GHz 4 / 8 3.60GHz 95W $562
Intel Core i7 860 2.80GHz 4 / 8 3.46GHz 95W $284
Intel Core i5 750 2.66GHz 4 / 4 3.20GHz 95W $196

 

Keeping Hyper Threading off of the Core i5 is purely done to limit performance. There aren't any yield reasons why HT couldn't be enabled.

Intel was very careful with both pricing and performance of its Lynnfield processors. I'm going to go ahead and say it right now, there's no need for any LGA-1366 processors slower than a Core i7 965:

This is only one benchmark, but it's representative of what you're about to see. The Core i7 870 (LGA-1156) is as fast, if not faster, than every single LGA-1366 processor except for the ones that cost $999. Its pricing is competitive as well:

For $196 you're getting a processor that's faster than the Core i7 920. I'm not taking into account motherboard prices either, which are anywhere from $50 - $100 cheaper for LGA-1156 boards. I don't believe LGA-1366 is dead, but there's absolutely no reason to buy anything slower than a 965 if you're going that route.

The LGA-1156 Socket
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  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, September 08, 2009 - link

    How would you have graphics then? You would be limited to the 4xPCIe off the P55 on motherboards which support it, as there are no integrated graphics (yet) Reply
  • MX5RX7 - Tuesday, September 08, 2009 - link

    I'm not sure that CPU/GPU integration is a good thing, from a consumer standpoint. At least in the short term.

    For example, in the article you mention how the majority of modern games are GPU, not CPU limited. The current model allows us to purchase a very capable processor and pair it with a very capable GPU. Then, when the ultra competitive GPU market has provided us with a choice of parts that easily eclipse the performance of the previous generation, we either swap graphics cards for the newer model, or purchase a second now cheaper identical card and (hopefully) double our game performance with SLI or Crossfire. All without having to upgrade the rest of the platform.

    With the current model, a new graphics API requires a new graphics card. With Larrabee, it might very well require a whole new platform.

    Reply
  • Ben90 - Tuesday, September 08, 2009 - link

    Yea, im really excited for Larrabee, who knows if it will be good or not... but with intel kicking ass in everything else, it will at least be interesting

    With overclocking performance seemingly being limited by the PCI-E controller, it seems like an unlocked 1156 would be pretty sweet

    All in all i gotta admit i was kinda bitter with this whole 1156 thing because i jumped on the 1336 bandwagon and it seemed that Intel was mostly just jacking off with the new socket... but this processor seems to bring a lot more innovation than i expected (just not in raw performance, still great performance though)
    Reply
  • chizow - Tuesday, September 08, 2009 - link

    Was worried no one was going to properly address one of the main differences between P55 and X58, thanks for giving it a dedicated comparison. Although I would've like to have seen more games tested, it clearly indicates PCIE bandwidth becoming an issue with current generation GPUs. This will only get worst with the impending launch of RV8x0 and GT300. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, September 08, 2009 - link

    PCIe bandwidth on Lynnfield is only an issue with two GPUs, with one you get the same 16 lanes as you would on X58 or AMD 790FX.

    If I had more time I would've done more games, I just wanted to focus on those that I knew scaled the best to see what the worst case scenario would be for Lynnfield.

    In the end 2 GPUs are passable (although not always ideal on Lynnfield), but 4 GPUs are out of the question.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • JumpingJack - Thursday, September 10, 2009 - link

    Anand, a few other sites have attempted SLI/Xfire work ... on in particular shows 4 GPUs having no impact at all on gaming performance in general -- well, 3 or 4 FPS, but nothing more than a few percentages over norm.

    Could your configuration with beta or just bad first release drivers be an issue?

    Jack
    Reply
  • JonnyDough - Tuesday, September 08, 2009 - link

    Would it be possible to incorporate two GPU controllers onto a die instead of one or is that what they'll be doing with future procs? I would think that two controllers with a communication hub might supply the needed bandwidth of x16 + x16. Reply
  • Comdrpopnfresh - Tuesday, September 08, 2009 - link

    with two gpu's being passable- do you foresee that applying to both two independent gpus, as well as the single dual-card gpus? Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, September 08, 2009 - link

    Yes. The only difference between the two is where the PCIe bridge chip is. In the former it's on the mobo, in the latter it's on the card itself. Reply
  • Eeqmcsq - Tuesday, September 08, 2009 - link

    Talk about bringing a bazooka to a knife fight. AMD better be throwing all their innovation ideas and the kitchen sink into Bulldozer, because Intel is thoroughly out-innovating AMD right now. Reply

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