Intel Core i7 "Nehalem" 920, 940 & 965 XE Processor Review

by MAC     |     November 3, 2008

Initial Impressions

And now, on with the show...

With everything we have so seen so far there sure is a lot to say, but to be honest with you it is hard to wrap one's mind around what Intel has accomplished with this new architecture. The Core i7 has had to follow in the tremendous footsteps of the Penryn microarchitecture, which not only provided awesome performance but unparalleled overclocking capabilities as well. As a result, the stakes were high, and the possibility for disappointment even higher. The level of hype and the sheer volume of misinformation did nothing to bolster pre-launch public opinion. However, in our opinion, Core i7's is a great success and improves upon the last generation in nearly every way. It provides performance where needed and it absolutely blows away the competition from AMD to the point that Team Green's position in this review barely warrants a mention.

When it comes to innovation in the processor market, consumers are usually left wanting since vast design changes are few and far between. This is because companies such as Intel and AMD take massive financial gambles betting that their new architectures will strike a cord with the buying public. Naturally, some like the Core 2 series succeed while others flounder. Intel took this same gamble with the i7 but in the high stakes poker game that is the current processor marketplace, it seems they stacked the deck and came up with a Royal Flush.

As they say; with all good things comes a bit of bad. We are a little disappointed that the single-threaded performance has not improved much (if at all) over Penryn but for us, the staggering multi-threaded performance more than makes up for this shortcoming. However, we can't forget the simple fact is that there are few resource heavy and time-consuming single-threaded applications that we use on a daily basis. On the other hand, most applications like 3D rendering, image editing, video encoding, WinRAR, Office 2007 suite, etc., are multi-threaded and all benefit substantially from Nehalem’s capabilities. Specifically, as we demonstrated in the feature test, the addition of Hyper-Threading was a brilliant move by Intel and the performance improvements are clearly night and day. Having said that, we hesitate to give the Core i7 series our unconditional thumbs up simply because the performance improvements are so very focused on this one aspect. Not to mention that the platform as a whole (CPU, memory and motherboard) will be quite expensive at first but this is the price that early adopters have always had to pay.

We fully understand that the majority gamers will not be overly impressed with Core i7 right now.Yes, there are more multi-threaded games than ever, but many are poorly coded and the performance improvements are just not visible at the higher resolutions that most gamers use. Therefore, if you're a gamer and you currently have a dual or quad-core 45nm Core 2 processor, you probably should not rush out to buy a Core i7 system. However, we can assure that once games highly multi-threaded games like Alan Wake are released, your opinions of this platform will change immediately.

If you are a ‘general purpose’ power user or simply a ‘Tech Head’ who likes fiddling with the latest and greatest, the Core i7 platform will give you a lot to smile about….and I can tell you that we are smiling from ear to ear right about now.

Please visit the comment thread in our forums to post your questions and opinions

Our utmost thanks goes out to Intel for including us in this latest product launch and for making this review possible!


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