The First Lynnfield Sample

Let me preface this with the usual disclaimer. Intel did *not* supply me with this chip and it is most definitely pre-production silicon, not necessarily indicative of final, shipping performance.

With that out of the way, here is Lynnfield:


Lynnfield (front) vs. Bloomfield (back)


Core i7-Bloomfield (left) vs. Lynnfield (right)

It’s a lot smaller than the LGA-1366 Core i7, but compared to current Core 2 Quads it’s actually similar in size:


LGA-775 Core 2 Duo (left) vs. LGA-1156 Lynnfield (right)

Flipping the chips over you see that Lynnfield has a much higher pad density, enabling Intel to fit 1156 pads in about the same space as it fit 775 pads just a few years prior.


Core 2 (left) vs. Lynnfield (right)

Once more, I’ve blanked out all of the caps and other markings on the chip to protect the innocent.

The initial Lynnfield samples were all clocked at 2.13GHz with HT enabled. Turbo mode was also enabled but it too was a meager 2.26GHz regardless of how many cores were active. All of this was to enable motherboard manufacturers to test compatibility and performance of their P55 without giving away Lynnfield’s true performance.

Unfortunately this is the sample I tested with. Thankfully it was healthy enough for me to overclock the BLCK to 166MHz, resulting in a 2.66GHz frequency. Turbo mode was still stuck at a 1x increase over the stock frequency, so final Lynnfield performance should be much better in single and dual threaded apps than what you’ll see here today.

The results on the coming pages show three configurations. Lynnfield running at 2.13GHz with HT enabled, 2.66GHz with HT enabled and 2.66GHz with HT disabled. The latter is going to be the closest to actual Lynnfield performance (albeit still far away thanks the sample’s crippled turbo mode), the 2.66GHz with HT enabled just shows how much we gain from HT and the 2.13GHz chip is an experiment in seeing how low Intel could drop these things and still have a competitive part.

If you thought Nehalem needed Hyper Threading to be a strong performer, you were dead wrong.

Comments About Lynnfield's Readiness

The current rumors in the press are that Lynnfield is being held back in order to clear out excess Core 2 Quad inventory before it ships, because once this thing ships no one is going to want a Penryn anymore. Based on what I've seen, Lynnfield isn't ready just yet - it's not an artificial delay.

The motherboards are in rough shape, CF/SLI isn't working and we're still at very early revs of the CPU's silicon. While I think that the chip will be ready far in advance of its rumored September shipdate, the CPU and motherboards aren't yet.

The Test

Once more: the CPU we've tested here is pre-production silicon without all of its turbo modes enabled. I expect final, shipping performance to be higher in some cases.

Motherboard: Pre-release P55 Motherboard (Intel P55)
Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-UD5P (AMD 790FX)
Chipset:

Intel P55
Intel X58
AMD 790FX

Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.1.1.1012 (Intel)
AMD Catalyst 8.12
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M SSD (80GB)
Memory: Qimonda DDR3-1066 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Corsair DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 280
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 180.43 (Vista64)
NVIDIA ForceWare 178.24 (Vista32)
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit (for SYSMark)
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
The LGA-1156 Socket and New Heatsinks SYSMark, Photoshop & Video Encoding Performance
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  • rmlarsen - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link

    This is my concern too. While I suppose I should give the Westmere IGP the benefit of the doubt, I do not have high hopes that it will be anywhere near the performance of the ATI and NVIDIA IGPs we see today.
    And Intel is of course pulling the same stunt with the new Atom chipset.
    Reply
  • ssj4Gogeta - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link

    I really hope they have a decent graphics core for Westmere. Otherwise the consumers are going to be really annoyed. I read at the INQ that it's going to be much better than current Intel IGP's. Let's hope that's true.
    Maybe they want to eventually replace it with a couple of Larrabee cores in the future.
    Reply
  • TA152H - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link

    I'm reading this, and I'm really surprised at how slow the Lynnfield is compared to the Core i7. Yet, Anand keeps saying how good it is. What am I missing? It's the same processor, but with modified memory access, and it gets run over by the i7 by up to 5% on many benchmarks.

    This sounds like a brain-damaged chip that should not be made. Sure, they can do turbo-mode better, but they can do that on the i7 as well, and may very well do that with the next revision. It seems the trade-offs have a very significant impact on performance.

    They should name it the Celeron - which also is performs pretty well, but is brain-damaged enough it's not really competitive with Intel's really good CPUs.

    It's still a really good CPU, outside of the context that the i7 is much better. But, if the prices don't overlap, it's still more than good enough to beat anything AMD puts out, and even the Penryn. Still, I'm really surprised at the low performance. I figured it would be close, because dual channel should have better latency than three channel, and the throughput rate wouldn't make so much of a difference. Oh well. At least I know not to wait.

    Great article, Anand. I do not really agree with your assessment of it, although I agree it's still a very attractive processor for many, it was very informative and helps me decide what and when to buy now. Thanks!
    Reply
  • mesiah - Saturday, May 30, 2009 - link

    I think you are overlooking one important factor here. One reason Anand is so excited about the numbers that the lynnfield posted is because it is a crippled pre-production proccessor. With all of the limitations put on this sample chip it still performs admirably, and the actual production samples almost always outperform these early sample chips. Reply
  • TemjinGold - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link

    You do realize Lynnfield is meant to be the MAINSTREAM part while Bloomfield is the ENTHUSIAST part, right? It was never meant to beat the i7 just as nVidia's GTX260 Core 216 isn't meant to beat the GTX280. That's why it's so much cheaper. By your logic, AMD's entire lineup "shouldn't be made" as all of their chips get creamed by the i7. Reply
  • TA152H - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link

    If Intel were making the Phenom II, I would say there's no reason for the chips at all. They are expensive and slow. But, AMD really has no choice, since they don't have a better design available.

    Your logic is weak. i7 is a LINE of processors, with very expensive ones, and ones that are not so expensive. It's much broader than the GTX280.

    The reality is, it's not that much more expensive for Intel to make the i7. It's more of a marketing segmentation situation, just like they compromise lower end processors now. In this case, the loss of performance is really dramatic, and it's not like they're able to use chips they wouldn't be able to use otherwise, by disabling cache, or that the Lynnfield is going to be a lot smaller.

    We'll see when Anand gets the actual size, but I'd be shocked if you see a substantial difference in size. Probably the Lynnfield will be bigger, since some logic is on the processor now.

    I don't think it's a great tradeoff to lose so much performance, for the limited cost savings. I'd rather have seen them bring the i7 at lower clock speeds down to better prices, instead of artificially inflating the x58 price.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Saturday, May 30, 2009 - link

    You are correct, Lynnfield shouldn't be any smaller than Bloomfield (current i7). Remember that this is not only an early chip but it's on a mostly untuned motherboard. I've heard up to a 10% increase in performance for final shipping platforms. That may be more aggressive than I'd say but I think Jarred is on point here; I'd be surprised if we saw an appreciable difference between the i7-920 and the 2.66GHz Lynnfield in apps that spawn 4 or fewer CPU intensive threads.

    It's totally an artificial separation from a silicon standpoint. Intel could just as easily make everything a LGA-1366 processor and forget entirely about 1156. I'm assuming that 1366 boards would inherently be a bit more expensive as routing the QPI link requires a bit more effort than DMI. The main thing is that 1366 does not provide for on-die PCIe, which is necessary given the direction that Intel is going with mainstream graphics.

    I think in the long run 1366 will be reserved for very thread heavy work; the Skulltrail successor will only use 1366 sockets. Enthusiast overclockers may also flock to 1366 but I believe the majority of the market will be served just fine by 1156.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • red77star - Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - link

    I think you're wrong. The only reason Intel released LGA1156 was to 'kill' AMD. It seems to me that Intel doesn't want AMD to be able to compete. Honestly, LGA-1156 has no single value in it. There will never be 6-core CPU for this platform therefore it's absolutely 'future' useless. I own LGA1366 and i realized that i did good purchase. i920 is too good for $279 that Intel wants to kill it. i920 can be overclocked over 1000Mhz, probably not reachable for any of LGA1156 variant. We are talking about 1000Mhz overclock on air cooler and even higher. C0 revision will run 3.8Ghz fine, and D0 over 4.0Ghz meaning it will outperform anything out there. I don't think LGA1366 is only server reserved, wait for 1H 2010 and 6 core release. As soon as AMD pushes 6-core AM3 CPU for the price of newest crippled i7, existence of LGA1156 will lose any point.

    In my book Intel should had released cheaper version of x58 with less features (like less SATA ports, single PCIEx16 etc, dual channel memory), and what they did with LGA1156 CPUs, they could do same in LGA1366 package (by crippling i920) so everything is compatible across the platform and of course kill LGA775.

    Now we have LGA775, LGA1156, LGA1366 - it's called bullshit.
    Reply
  • esgreat - Saturday, May 30, 2009 - link

    If you want performance, definitely i7 is the way to go...and yes, it does look like a purposeful marketing segmentation.

    It also boils down to price, not really to the end users but the bill of materials (BOM) cost to the manufacturers. A one chip 'chipset' solution will bring about significantly fewer components (capacitors, resistors), and also enable smaller form factors

    This would also mean that as the boards are released, the prices have much more room to drop compared to x58. And the fact that this is the volume mainstream part, economies of scale would ensure significant drops in prices.

    This would make great platforms for the majority of the computers sold by Dell, HP, etc (did I mention that P55 is a 'mainstream' chipset?). Large boards like the X58 isn't suitable for all applications. Imagine trying to stuff a huge X58 motherboard into a mini-chassis business desktop.

    And hey, the fact that you're an enthusiast and performance-conscious user, all your logical explanations concluded choosing the 'performance' platform, i7...exactly how Intel wanted you to do.

    Essentially you choose the performance you want depending on how much you have in your wallet. There's a potential $100-$200 cost savings for Lynnfield which I don't think is 'little'.

    The only question I ask is why you think Lynnfield is not going to be smaller than i7? I thought Anand showed photographs comparing their sizes.
    Reply
  • MrRuckus - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link

    "and it gets run over by the i7 by up to 5% on many benchmarks."

    Did you really say that? So if 5% is such a large amount, what would you consider to be close??
    Running on an intentionally crippled memory controller and only being 5% away from an i7, I would say thats outstanding.
    Reply

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