Intel Core i7 920
Intel has been on a winning-streak ever since it unleashed its ‘Core’ processors. Not content with waiting around for AMD to counterattack, Intel continued to update its Core processors to boost performance and this trend has continued to this day
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Cache memory: 256KB L1, 1MB L2, 8MB L3
Clock speed: 2.67GHz
Number of cores: 4
Socket type: LGA 1366
Intel has been on a performance-winning-streak ever since it unleashed its ‘Core’ line of processors on the market. Not content with waiting around for AMD to counterattack, Intel continued to update its Core processors to boost performance and this trend has continued to this day. This time around however, the update is far more significant with the launch of the Core i7 family of processors, which are based on the ‘Nehalem’ micro-architecture.
The new i7 processors though produced on the existing 45nm fabrication process are very different beasts from the older Core chips. This is plain to see by just looking at the chip because the i7 processors sport a new CPU interface known as LGA1366. This has a greater pin-count than the older LGA775 interface and, as a result, the chip itself is slightly larger than before. This straightaway means that you can’t fit a Nehalem chip to existing LGA775 boards.
Beyond the interface, Intel has given the i7 some serious muscle via fairly hefty internal changes. The i7 for instance features an onboard memory controller that is triple channel memory compliant. This means you can fit DIMMs in threes and reap performance benefits in much the same way that you could when using dual-channel memory (using two memory modules) rather than just one module.
Hyper-Threading technology also makes a comeback on Nehalem and this essentially gives the processor a virtual thread (for software to use) per core. On a dual-core Nehalem chip this means up to four threads can be executed simultaneously and, on a quad-core chip, up to eight threads can be dealt with at once. Unfortunately today’s software is still fairly basic in terms of multithreading so the true performance on Nehalem will only be realised in the future.
Another difference with Core i7 is that it ditches the traditional front side bus (FSB) in favour of a new point-to-point interconnect, known as Intel QuickPatch interconnect. Lastly, Nehalem chips also sport different cache configurations compared to the older Core processors.
Our 2.66GHz Core i7 920 processor includes 64Kbytes of L1 cache per core, 256Kbytes of L2 cache per core and a massive 8Mbytes of L3 cache. The latter can be used by any of the processor’s cores.
In terms of performance, our i7 920 processor returned stunning benchmarks that placed it between 10% and 30% quicker than an identically clocked Penryn chip. In our Cinebench 9.5 multi-CPU test for instance, the i7 920 scored 1947 and finished the render in 11 seconds flat. Our 2.66GHz Core 2 Quad Q9450 returned a result of 1590 and took 16 seconds to complete the same render.
The 920 also returned a very quick result when tackling our POY-Ray benchmark; it required just 13 minutes and nine seconds compared to 16 minutes and 19 seconds. Switching to games, the Core i7 returned the fastest F.E.A.R and World in Conflicts scores we’ve ever recorded at 1024 x 768 pixels and outstripped the Q9450 by 20fps and 9fps respectively.
Overclocking-wise, we were able to push our test sample from its default 2.66GHz to 3.5GHz by bumping the voltage up by a factor of just 0.020volts. At this frequency, the chip returned just slightly elevated temperature readings when idle and when under full load. Impressive stuff Intel.
Against: You’ll need a new motherboard to use these chips.