Intel Core i7: Nehalem Launched

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As you've surmised by now, we were among the recipients of the Intel i7 press review package. Our kit included:

  • Core i7 920 and Core i7 965 (non-retail processor samples)
  • Intel DX58SO motherboard - Intel X58 chipset.
  • Intel X25-M 80GB solid-state hard drive
  • Stock Intel heatsink/fan for LGA1366
  • Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme RT heatsink with fan
  • QiMonda DDR3 RAM - PC3-1066, 3 x 1024 MB

For who are expecting pages and pages of benchmarks of the above gear using programs you've never heard about or will ever use, we will disappoint. SPCR's focus is on acoustics, thermals and power. These are the aspects we'll focus on using test tools you may be familar with from other SPCR reviews. The physical details of the new platform are also important for us to examine — CPU die size, heatspreader composition and dimensions, heatsink mounting, etc. Finally, we designed a basic test suite with a few time-sensitive operations that the majority of users may find themselves doing from time to time. These tests were run on two similarly equipped systems — one Core i7, one Core 2 quad-core — for a comparison of practical desktop performance diferences between the Core i7 platform and its closest Core 2 equivalents.


The Core i7 in the LGA1366 package is physically larger than the Core 2 socket 775 processors. It has some 731 million transistors in a 263 mm² area made in the same 45nm fabrication process for "Penryn" Core 2 chips, which has 410 million transistors and a 107 mm² die. Two such dies are needed for a quad-core Core 2 processor.

LGA1366 processor on left, LGA775 on right.

A Core i7 in its socket. Notice the screws in each corner — they attach to a back plate on the trace side of the motherboard.

The socket is slightly larger, and rectangular, to match the processor.

The heatsink mounting holes remain symmetrical, though the push-pin system from the LGA775 cooler unfortunately remains. The lever that locks the CPU in place is longer and more prone to bending. Watch your fingers — the amount of force required is similar to that of a mouse trap.

The included stock cooler is somewhat taller than the stock LGA775 cooler.

The stock heatsink also has a larger diameter as the mounting holes are further apart on LGA1366 motherboards. They form a 80mm square — LGA775 mounting holes are 72mm apart.

Thermalright's 1366 version of the Ultra-120 eXtreme. The actual heatsink is unchanged, but it ships with a Thermalright branded fan with a re-designed plastic mount — the wire clips have been done away with.

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