Final Words

I'll start this conclusion with what AMD must do in response to Lynnfield. The Core i5 750 is a great processor at $196, in fact, it's the best quad-core CPU you can buy at that price today. In nearly every case it's faster than AMD's Phenom II X4 965 BE, despite the AMD processor costing almost another $50. Granted you can probably save some money on an integrated 785G motherboard, but if you're comparing ~$120 motherboards the AMD CPU is simply overpriced.


Lynnfield (top) vs. Phenom II (bottom)

Luckily, the solution isn't that difficult. AMD needs to lower prices. The problem is that AMD has too many products below $200 already. The Phenom II X3 and X4 series both exist below $200 and rumor has it that AMD is also going to introduce a quad-core Athlon II somewhere down there. Lynnfield's arrival causes a lot of price compression on AMD's side. The most AMD should sell the 965 BE for is $199, but if it is to remain competitive the chip needs to be priced much lower. That doesn't leave much room for other AMD CPUs. On the bright side, this could force AMD to simplify its product lines again (similar to what it has quietly been doing already).

The next thing that the Core i5 750 does is it finally ends the life of LGA-775. Just as was the case with AMD, the Core 2 Quad Q9650 is easily destroyed by the Core i5 750 and at a lower price. With significantly lower motherboard costs than the LGA-1366 chips, the Core i5 750 can actually compete in the high end LGA-775 space. It's only a matter of time before the sub-$200 LGA-775 parts are made obsolete as well.

Lynnfield power consumption is just excellent, these are the most power efficient quad-core CPUs we've ever tested. They use less power at idle than similarly clocked dual-core processors and under load they deliver better performance per watt than any of their closest competitors. Later this year we'll see 32nm dual-core Westmere start to ship for notebooks. I don't have performance data but I'd expect that early next year will be the perfect time to buy a new notebook.

Can you tell that I like the Core i5 750? Again, at $196 you can't find a better processor. Intel did its homework very well and managed to deliver something that kept AMD in check without completely upsetting the balancing of things. There's no technical reason that Intel couldn't have enabled Hyper Threading on the Core i5, it's purely a competitive move. A Core i5 750 with HT would not only defeat the purpose of most of the i7s, but it would also widen the performance gap with AMD. Intel doesn't need to maintain a huge performance advantage, just one that's good enough. While I'd love to have a 750 with HT, I'd still recommend one without it.

The Core i7 870 gets close enough to the Core i7 975 that I'm having a hard time justifying the LGA-1366 platform at all. As I see it, LGA-1366 has a few advantages:

1) High-end multi-GPU Performance

2) Stock Voltage Overclocking

3) Future support for 6-core Gulftown CPUs

If that list doesn't make you flinch, then Lynnfield is perfect. You'll save a bunch on a motherboard and the CPUs start at $196 instead of $284. We didn't have enough time with our Core i7 860 to include performance results here but my instincts tell me that at $284 that'll be the Lynnfield sweetspot. You get excellent turbo modes and Hyper Threading, without breaking $300.

Speaking of turbo, I'd say that Intel is definitely on to something here. The performance impact was small with Bloomfield, but turbo on Lynnfield is huge. My tests showed up to a 17% increase in performance depending on the workload, with most CPU-influenced scenarios seeing at least 9 or 10%. The turbo mode transitions happen fast enough to accelerate even simple actions like opening a new window. OS and application responsiveness is significantly improved as a result and it's something that you can actually feel when using a Lynnfield machine. It all works so seamlessly, you just always get the best performance you need. It's like Intel crammed the best single, dual and quad-core processors all into one package.

Perhaps that's what kept me from falling in love with Bloomfield right away. It was fast but in the same way that its predecessors were fast. If you didn't have a well threaded application, Bloomfield wasn't any better than a similarly clocked Penryn. Lynnfield's turbo modes change the game. Say goodbye to tradeoffs, the Core i5 and Core i7 are now fast regardless of thread count. It speed that is useful, it speed that you can feel, it's what truly makes Lynnfield the best desktop microprocessor of 2009. It's not just faster, it's smarter, it's better. It's why today's title borrows from Daft Punk and not Star Wars; it's not more of the same, it's something futuristic and new.

Lynnfield shows us the beginning of how all microprocessors are going to be made in the future. Even AMD is embracing turbo, we'll see it with Fusion in 2011. Extend turbo to its logical conclusion and you end up with something very exciting. Imagine a processor made up of many different cores, large and small, CPU and GPU. Each one turning on/off depending on the type of workload, and each running as fast as possible without dissipating more heat than your system can handle.

My only two complaints with Lynnfield are that the chips do require additional voltage (above stock) to overclock and of course the lack of Hyper Threading on the Core i5. It doesn't ruin the processor, but it gives us something to wish for.

Our work is never over.

Overclocking Lynnfield at Stock Voltage: We're PCIe Limited
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  • Ann3x - Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - link

    1/ There is no chance that any of these chip can run safely with no fan.
    2/ You dont get huge temperature increases if you dont overvolt, just clock changes result in very small temperature changes. look at the article you linked. The 3 new chips use EXACTLY the same power despite their differing clock speeds.
    3/ New energy saving technology works with overclock just like it does with stock clock ed CPUs (eg energy states, my i7 is overclocked to 4ghz on stock volts, when its not needed it clock down - same end effect as these new chips (albeit slightly less elegant)).

    This whole fuss about turbo mode is just marketing gumph and yet people are totally sucked in by the hype.
    Reply
  • coconutboy - Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - link

    1- I never said anything about running the CPU w/o a fan. Fanless watercooling is an option, as is quiet low rpm fans.

    2- Clocking w/o increasing voltage does increase heat and whether or not you consider that to be a significant amount depends on the cooling solution you use. I made no claim that OC'd temps would increase as much as overvolting.

    Your opinion about the validity of turbo mode is just that, you opinion. You and I can agree to disagree.
    Reply
  • titanium001 - Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - link

    I was excited to see the article, but was left wondering and scratching my head when gaming performance was evaluated. I didn't see any 1920 x 1200 or 2560 x 1600 comparisons anywhere. Do the i7 800 series take a significant performance hit in these settings. I guess everything can't be delivered until a full in depth review. Have to just wait. I'll reserve my judgment about the 800 series until then, for now, it's just another proc. Thanks for the initial preview Anandtech.com. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - link

    Have a look at the SLI/CF Multi-GPU Gaming page, I include some GPU limited tests at the bottom of that page.

    At higher resolutions P55, X58 and even Phenom II/790FX all perform the same if you're GPU limited. The PCIe limitations of P55/Lynnfield only come into play when you're running in multi-GPU mode because the x16 interface gets broken up into a pair of x8s.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • NoobyDoo - Tuesday, September 8, 2009 - link

    ... remember when C2D was released ? Reply
  • coconutboy - Tuesday, September 8, 2009 - link

    After thoroughly reading a lot of the articles at Toms, Anand, xbit etc, Lynnfield looks great and has been worth the wait. However, it's not an absolute sell as a gamer box IMO. My g/f and I have been waiting to build a pair of new gaming computers, but wanted to see what i5 had to offer first. Now that NDAs are down, the $30-70 savings for p55 versus comparable x58 mobos is great, but some things about i5 still make me want an i7 920 instead.

    My g/f and I plan on buying a pair of GTX 275s, one for each computer. Then later on as our systems age, we'll put both 275s in one box and buy a newer vid card for the other system. We also moderately overclock our CPUs (3.2-3.4 would be what I expect for a i7 920) to boost performance w/o shortening the lifespan too much because our gamer boxes usually end up moving down the line in our home network to become servers or some such.

    Taking into account everything I've been reading at hardware sites thus far, we'll likely build one Lynnfield and one i7 for our gaming rigs. I expect one of the current gamer computers we build will migrate to become a VMware machine later on which means an i7 920 w/ (eventually) 24GBs of RAM is very attractive. The ability to use a 6 core CPU later on counts for a lot as well.
    Reply
  • coconutboy - Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - link

    edit- I meant to be comparing an mildly overclocked i7 920 @ stock voltage and 3.3-3.4GHz versus an i7 860/870, not an i5. I'd often prefer the 920 (but not always of course) for my uses. Reply
  • thebeastie - Tuesday, September 8, 2009 - link

    Such a good complete review, EXCEPT there is no information of how much power the CPU used with it was hard overclocked to its 4.2Ghz mark.
    With its intergrated PCIe 100million transistor count controller inside the CPU this would of been really interesting info.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - link

    The system power utilized (measured at the wall) was 301W for the 4.2GHz overclock on the 870 under an eight thread 100% load test on the board. Reply
  • justme2009 - Tuesday, September 8, 2009 - link

    Why are you overhyping this garbage? I'm waiting for Clarkdale. I'm still ticked off that Intel caved to the manufacturers and held off on releasing it, we were supposed to have it in the 4th quarter of this year, now it will be first half of 2010.
    This new nehalem (even if it's for desktops) will be nothing compared to the mobile nehalem next year.
    My only other question is, why the hell has Clarkdale/Arrendale information been buried? There hasn't been a peep from anyone about it since February.
    Reply

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