Intel Core i7-920 CPU
The main hero of our today’s experiments will be the most popular CPU in Core i7 family. It is the youngest solution – Core i7-920. The demand for it is extremely high due to its low price. For example, Intel’s official price list sets its MSRP at $284, while the next faster model in the family is already priced at $562.
We have already discussed the specifications of this processor before, so, we would only like to repeat them in a table below for your reference:
Intel Core i7-920
3 DDR3-800/1067 SDRAM channels
Cores / threads
Enhanced Intel SpeedStep
Intel Virtualization Technology
Intel Turbo Boost Technology
MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSE4.1, SSE4.2
I would like to point out that the currently shipping mass production Core i7 processors have C0 stepping – the same processor stepping as those engineering samples that Intel sent us before the launch. However, mass production Core i7 CPUs that started selling in stores turned out to be dramatically different from the samples sent out to testers. Mass production Core i7 have unlocked multipliers for the memory and North Bridge built into the processor. As a result, systems built on mass production Core i7 CPUs allow clocking DDR3 SDRAM at frequencies over 1067MHz even without increasing the BCLK frequency over its nominal value. In other words, although the official specifications state only DDR3-800 and DDR3-1067 memory support, Core i7 processors in reality also support faster memory types. During our test session we could get our platform to work stably with the memory running as DDR3-1333, DDR3-1600 and even DDR3-1867 SDRAM.
For example, the screenshot from the Everest diagnostic tool you see below was taken in DDR3-1333 mode:
Note that the utility indicates 1.2V processor Vcore setting. It is currently a standard setting. All Core i7 processors we have checked out so far used the same exact setting.
Since we got our hands on a mass production CPU in a retail box, we would like to say a few words about its packaging and bundle. Core i7 ships in a blue cardboard box that is way larger than the boxes for quad-core Core 2 Quad CPUs. Nevertheless, the bundle remained unchanged. There is a booklet with installation instructions and a cooler.
The default cooler bundled with Core i7 processors has barely changed compared with the cooling solutions enclosed with LGA775 CPUs. It consists of a massive cylinder-shaped aluminum heatsink with a copper center and a 90-mm fan. The changes have also been made to the retention mechanism: it is now made of four plastic studs that lock into the mainboard retention holes.
This cooler is efficient enough to keep the CPU stable in nominal operational mode. However, during overclocking it can no longer do its job right and doesn’t let the processor reveal its frequency potential fully.
As for the CPU itself, it doesn’t look any different from the samples we tested before. The only evident difference is the serial marking on the CPU heat-spreader. Besides the Intel Core i7 trade mark and 920 serial number, it also states clock frequency, L3 cache size and QPI frequency. There is also a PCG mark (Platform Compatibility Guide) indicating electrical parameters. The identification S-Spec number of our processor unit was SLBCH, which is currently used for all mass production Core i7-920 CPUs.