The Fastest Processor for Single Threaded Tasks

In the past we’ve had to make concessions for single-threaded application performance on modern day quad-core processors. For example, $266 will buy you two 3.33GHz cores or four 2.83GHz cores from Intel. I generally recommend going the quad-core option but there’s no getting around the fact that you do give up some performance when an application can’t take advantage of more than two threads.

With the Core i7 Extreme 975 the CPU can run at up to 3.60GHz when only one core is active (3.46GHz if more than one core is active). In my testing I found that the CPU almost always ran at its maximum turbo frequencies.

The graph below shows single-threaded performance in Cinebench R10. Note that while the Core 2 Duo E8600 (3.33GHz) was the top performer in this test for quite some time, the Core i7’s Turbo Mode has ensured that it’s no longer true.

Single Threaded Performance - Cinebench R10
The fastest single-threaded processors are now Intel's quad-core, eight-thread Core i7s

The biggest issue I see with the i7’s Turbo Mode today is that you only get one speed bin improvement (+133MHz) if 2 or more cores are active. The biggest boost (+266MHz) only comes when only a single core is active. Perhaps we’ll have to wait for Lynnfield for that.

The Test

Motherboard: Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Intel DX48BT2 (Intel X48)
MSI DKA790GX Platinum (AMD 790GX)
Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-DS4H (AMD 790GX)
Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-UD5P (AMD 790FX)
Chipset: Intel X48
Intel X58
Chipset Drivers: Intel (Intel)
AMD Catalyst 8.12
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M SSD (80GB)
Memory: G.Skill DDR2-800 2 x 2GB (4-4-4-12)
G.Skill DDR2-1066 2 x 2GB (5-5-5-15)
Qimonda DDR3-1066 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Corsair DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (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
Index SYSMark 2007 Performance


View All Comments

  • SDSUMarcus01 - Friday, June 05, 2009 - link

    Yeah, I got a desktop $2000 "replacement" laptop about 3 years ago and it has been a nightmare. In the beginning, it overheated and shut down all the time. Sometimes I couldn't even turn the damn thing on, it'd overheat while LOADING windows.

    Now I get it to work pretty well but that's after a cooling pad, arctic silver 5, coppermodding the gpu, undervolting AND underclocking (even undervolted, the higher multipliers get too hot).

    Not to mention it's not that portable either, it's damn big and heavy.

    I look forward to returning to the US in about a month and using a desktop again. If I ever buy a laptop again, it WILL be a secondary computer for travel purposes.
  • aeternitas - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    "Its like asking a Smart/1.4 HDI engines to compete with my 309 GTI or Delta HF Turbo. And keeping the low mpg."

    I think keeping low mpg isnt much of a problem ;)
  • RadnorHarkonnen - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    Sure, My Lancia does 0-240 Km/h in less than 40 secs.
    The Peugeot takes a bit more time and only reaches the 220 Km/H.

    Get a SMART/1.4HDI engine doing that, and keeping the 4L per 100Kms.

    That is what hes asking. The Smart could only reach that in a free-fall.
  • nubie - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    Dumbest analogy I have ever heard.">">

    I assume there is some reason that the Nehalem processors can't be targeted to more vigorous sleep states and attempt to run on 1-2 processors more of the time?

    There is no reason that they can't be in laptops, they are no more power hungry than the P4 notebooks. And they are much much better performing.
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    Can you do anything interesting with it? All the tool driving appears to be interested in is blowing doughnuts.

    And that Ferrari driver sucks, dunno if that is the best the Smart can do, but the F430 can certainly top a 13.4 second quarter mile with a competent driver.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    You'll see both dual and quad-core Nehalem (Core i7 derivatives) on the notebook in the second half of this year. The quad-core options will appear first then the dual-core at the very end of 2009 and into 2010.

    I wrote about this a little while ago:">

    Hope that helps :)
  • Hrel - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    yeah, I also remember reading that we were going to see performance comparisons between different notebook GPU's and CPU's; and I quote, "soon". Where's that?? I'm with the guy above, notebooks are the future, barely anyone should care about desktops anymore... granted we need a standardized GPU slot on notebooks and dedicated GPU to integrated GPU switching NEEDS to become standard. Also LED and OLED screens, battery life is SO important. Intel thinks lighter laptops will make people take them outside more... still pointless if we need to carry a stupid ac adapter with us. Reply
  • nitromullet - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    That's my first question when I read this... Is Intel planning to phase out the 920 and replace that segment with Lynnfield? Reply
  • TA152H - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    Why would you want a dog like Lynnfield if you can get a i7 920 for around the same price?

    The issues with Lynnfield can't be fixed, you can overclock an i7 920 and resolve what makes it slow (relatively speaking, of course). How are you going to fix the brain-damaged memory controller on the Lynnfield?

    Lynnfield is the Celeron of the Nehalem world. It's fine for mainstream America, who actually can get by with AMD parts. But, for someone who knows how to overclock, why be saddled with a crippled processor when you get pay a little more and get a more capable platform? You're better off getting slower/cheaper memory, and getting an i7, than getting fast memory with the crippled Lynnfield memory controller.

    Of course, I'm basing this on the performance given here on the previous review, which has me stunned. Maybe it's just pre-release hardware that caused the big drop in performance and the released version will be better. But still, I really hope they leave the i7 920 or something like it just in case the Lynnfield releases with the performance we saw in the pre-release version. If that's the case, forget it, and get the i7 920. It's got much more potential.
  • BSMonitor - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    Are you on crack? Lynnfield is a Nehalem without the tri-channel memory controller... Lynnfield is cheaper by $100 at the same speed bin and runs cooler. Some benchmarks on ES put the Lynnfield faster than Nehalem counterparts where the single/dual threaded apps make use of the more generous turbo mode...

    Put the reefer down and actually read the article. Lynnfield is 2 months away and already crushing any Phenom II or Penryn and as fast as its Nehalem counterparts at $100 cheaper.

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