Documenting the Coming Singularity

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

First Look: Intel's Nehalem Smashes Performance Thresholds

ChannelWeb - Nov. 03, 2008, by Brian Sheinberg

Intel's next-generation Nehalem processor lineup is so powerful that it simply destroys previous CPU benchmarks. An early look at the company's new chips shows they have the potential to drive current data center-class performance onto the desktop.

The Test Center has reviewed evaluation units of the chip giant's latest processors and motherboards over the past several weeks. Early results show nearly historic levels of improvement over previous generations of processors.

Intel, Santa Clara, Calif., made the evaluation units available to reviewers ahead of the platform's official launch, which is expected to happen later this month. ("Nehalem" is actually the former code-name of the platform, which includes its new Core i7 CPUs and X58 motherboards.)

Considered by some to have the most significant new architectural changes since the Pentium Pro, the microarchitecture will include future variants for server and mobile applications.

The Test Center took a first look at the Core i7-965 Extreme Edition, installed in Intel's "SmackOver" motherboard, the DX58SO Extreme Series.

Along with the DX58SO, our test kit included three Qimonda 1 GB memory modules, and a Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme cooling solution. An 80 GB, Intel High Performance SATA SSD was also supplied. After assembling the system, reviewers updated the BIOS to the latest version and installed Windows Vista Ultimate on the drive, followed by all drivers and updates.

From the moment the power was turned on, it was obvious that this was a fast machine. A complete boot of Vista took only 43 seconds from the time the power button was pressed and most of this time (27 seconds) was actually in the POST phase of the boot. From the moment Windows started loading, the OS was completely booted in just 16 seconds. Power draw was elevated from what we are used to seeing on our typical testbeds, averaging about 90 watts while idle and fluctuating between 130 and 180 watts when placed under load. This didn't come as much of a surprise since the three processors are spec'd at 130W TDP.

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