Intel Core i7: Nehalem Launched

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TESTING SETUP

Core i7 Test Platform

  • Intel Core i7 920 Bloomfield core processor - 2.66Ghz, 4.8 QDI, 130W TDP
  • Intel Core i7 965 Extreme - 3.2GHz, 6.4 QDI, 130W TDP
  • Intel DX58SO motherboard - Intel X58 chipset.
  • Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme RT heatsink
  • QiMonda DDR3 RAM - PC3-1066, 3 x 1024 MB
  • Asus ENGTX260 512MB graphics card
  • Intel X25-M 80GB solid-state hard drive
  • NesteQ ECS7001 ATX power supply.
  • Microsoft Windows Vista SP1 operating system - Home Premium, 32-bit
  • nVidia Forceware graphics driver - version 178.24

Core 2 Test Platform

Measurement and Analysis Tools

Benchmark Test Details

  • Eset NOD32: In-depth virus scan of a folder containing 32 files of varying size with many of them being file RAR and ZIP archives.
  • WinRAR: Archive creation with a folder containing 68 files of varing size (less than 50MB).
  • iTunes: Conversion of an MP3 file to AAC
  • TMPGEnc Xpress: Encoding a 1-minute long XVID AVI file to VC-1 (1280x720, 30fps, 20mbps)

TEST RESULTS

While other sites will fill pages and pages of benchmarks using programs you've never heard about or will ever use, we designed a simple, basic test suite with a few time-sensitive operations that the majority of users may find themselves doing from time to time: NOD32 for anti-virus scanning, WinRAR for file archiving, iTunes for audio encoding, and TMPGEnc for video encoding. For more comprehensive benchmarking, a round-up of Core i7 reviews can be found on Mike Chin's blog entry.

Performance

For our tests, we ran the Core 2 Extreme QX9650 at its stock speed of 3Ghz and underclocked to 2.66Ghz to match the Core i7 920 clock for clock. We opted to underclock the QX9650 rather than overclock the Core i7 920 because the latter would require a bus adjustment which would then in-turn alter the memory frequency and thus create another variable to consider. We also tested the the Core i7 920 with dual channel and triple channel memory memory configurations to see if that made any significant difference in performance. Except for the motherboard and CPU cooler, the components used in the two platforms were identical, down to the memory speed and timings.

Benchmarks
CPU
QX9650
QX9650
i7 920
i7 920
i7 965XE
Clock Speed
2.66Ghz
(UC)
3.00Ghz
(Stock)
2.66Ghz
(Stock)
2.66Ghz
(Stock)
3.20Ghz
(Stock)
System RAM
2 x 1GB
2 x 1GB
2 x 1GB
3 x 1GB
3 x 1GB
NOD32
209s
197s
210s
209s
175s
WinRAR
185s
177s
153 s
151 s
136s
iTunes
214s
189s
209 s
200 s
176s
TMPGEnc
210s
189s
177 s
178 s
151s
3DMark06
13058
14077
15187
15200
16307

Not surprisingly, the Core i7 965XE dominated the benchmarks. NOD32 performance seemed to be based mostly on clock speed, with the QX9650 at 3Ghz coming in second place. WinRAR heavily favored the Bloomfield system. iTunes encoding received a small boost from Core i7, but clock speed, again was most critical, putting the QX9650 @ 3Ghz in second place. TMPGEnc, probably the most complex and thread-aware application in our suite, performed better on the Core i7 system as did 3DMark. Keep in mind that the Turbo Boost Technology in i7 overclocks all or some of the cores under load, while there is no such auto-overclock function in the QX9650. For example, the 965XE core clock speed went up to 3.33GHz under load.

Overall, in day-to-day use, the Core i7 gives a nice boost to performance over an equivalently clocked Core 2. However, for those running programs that aren't smart enough to take advantage of the improvements to the new architecture, it may be wise to invest the extra money that would be spent on DDR3 memory and a X58 board for a faster Core 2 quad core instead. Of the programs that did see an significant increase in performance, the amount was in the order of 15-20%. The effect of triple channel memory on the Core i7 system barely registered in any of our benchmarks with the i7 920.

Memory

The incorporation of an integrated memory controller is a giant step for Intel, and the memory benchmarks provided by Everest show that memory bandwidth and latency dramatically improved. While this does not necessarily translate into better performance for day-to-day desktop applications, server applications and such which are heavily memory-bound will be much happier.

Memory Performance (Everest Ultimate Edition)
CPU
QX9650
QX9650
i7 920
i7 920
i7 965XE
Clock Speed
2.66Ghz
(UC)
3.00Ghz
(Stock)
2.66Ghz
(Stock)
2.66Ghz
(Stock)
3.20Ghz
(Stock)
System RAM
2 x 1GB
2 x 1GB
2 x 1GB
3 x 1GB
3 x 1GB
Read MB/s
7334
7404
13212
13624
15022
Write MB/s
7074
7079
9681
9682
12054
Copy MB/s
6432
6259
11881
13239
15388
Latency
72.8 ns
72.2 ns
38.1 ns
42.3 ns
39.4 ns


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