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

by MAC     |     November 3, 2008

Core i7 - Bloomfield

Now that the media embargo has ended, we can finally confirm the final specifications of the soon-to-be-released Core i7 family of processors, codenamed Bloomfield. Keep in mind that today is not the actual product launch, that is going to be sometime “later in November”. Nevertheless, let's take a glance at what these new chips have to offer.


Processor nameIntel Core i7-920Intel Core i7-940Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition
Form FactorLGA1366LGA1366LGA1366
Manufacturing Process45nm45nm45nm
Die Size263mm˛263mm˛263mm˛
Transistor Count731 Million731 Million731 Million
Physical Cores444
Logical Cores888
Clock Speed2.66Ghz2.93Ghz3.2Ghz
QuickPath Interconnect4.8 GT/s4.8 GT/s6.4 GT/s
Memory SupportTriple-Channel DDR3-1066Triple-Channel DDR3-1066Triple-Channel DDR3-1066
L1 Cache Total4 x 32KB Data + 4 x 32KB Instruction4 x 32KB Data + 4 x 32KB Instruction4 x 32KB Data + 4 x 32KB Instruction
L2 Cache Total4 x 256KB4 x 256KB4 x 256KB
L3 Cache Total8MB Shared8MB Shared8MB Shared
Instruction Set Architecture (ISA)MMX,EMT64, SSE-SSSE4.2MMX,EMT64, SSE-SSSE4.2MMX,EMT64, SSE-SSSE4.2
Launch Price$284 USD$562 USD$999 USD

As you can see, the three initial launch models are quite similar even though their prices differ greatly. Aside from the price, the only noteworthy difference between the three chips is that the Extreme Edition model benefits from a higher QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) speed and has the unlocked multipliers that enthusiasts crave. As is their custom, Intel is targeting these initial offerings at the mid to high-end market. Although the budget-conscious among you may be disappointed, you must remember that the Bloomfield family is Intel's high-performance quad-core products. Based on Intel's roadmap, we can expect mainstream Nehalem offerings sometime in Q3 2009. Specifically, these will be the quad-core Lynnfield and dual-core Havendale models.

The Chips:

On its own the Core i7 processors look quite similar to its Core 2 predecessors, however it can be clearly distinguished by the unique gold dots that grace the edge of CPU package. By the way, notice the stepping our engineering sample processor, "Q1CK" - Quick. A little cockiness on Intel's behalf? We can't wait to see if it is warranted!

Those are 1366 contact points, a huge increase from the 775 that have been used since the Prescott and Cedar Mill Pentium 4 models. The layout of the micro SMD resistors is very interesting because it mimics the actual layout of the core, which you can see on the subsequent page.

When placed side-by-side with a Core 2 chip, you can clearly see that the Core i7 is a decent bit larger. It is also no longer square, instead having a slightly rectangular design.

The all-important CPU-Z shots. You can see that although the Core i7-920 and Core i7-965 share an identical bus speed, their QPI Link speed is in fact different.

As usual, the CPU core speed is derived by a multiplier times bus speed formula. Since the FSB is no longer present, the bus speed in question is the QPI source clock (BCLK), which has a stock frequency of 133MHz. The memory controller and the L3 cache operate at 2.13GHz (i7-920/940) or 2.66GHz (i7-965) on a seperate frequency called the un-core clock. By the way, although our chips are engineering samples, they are manufactured with the final retail stepping, so they perform the same as the chips you will be able to buy in the retail channel.

Now let’s take an in-depth look at the Core i7’s Nehalem microarchitecture to see what exactly makes it so special.

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