AMD started introducing new CPU cores manufactured with advanced 45nm process several months ago; however, they didn’t succeed yet in shaking Intel’s standing in the market as the supplier of the fastest desktop processors. Nevertheless, a number of announcements of the new Phenom II processor models, that may not be the fastest but are undoubtedly very attractive from the pricing standpoint, have become the driving force of everything that has been happening in the market over the past six months. It is solely thanks to the new AMD processors that the CPU market didn’t sink into boring stagnation. AMD was aggressively promoting their new Phenom II solutions thus forcing the microprocessor giant to respond accordingly, namely, make changes to their price list and add new processor models into certain CPU families.
Unfortunately, the events in the mainstream segment have hardly affected the high-end market in any way. So far AMD hasn’t offered any solutions capable of competing against Intel Core i7 family that is why Intel is still resting on the laurels and taking no real action in extending the model lineup of this series. Core i7 processor family launched over six months ago has been out there in its initial state. Today Intel has finally decided to make a few changes to its high-performance family. However, these changes have been inspired not by the competitors’ aggressive efforts, but by the upcoming introduction of Nehalem microarchitecture into the mainstream segment this fall.
As we know, this September Intel is going to announce LGA1156 platform and Core i5 processors (codenamed Linnfield) that should be very similar to their elder brothers, Core i7, in many aspects. They will share the same microarchitecture, same number of computational cores, Hyper-Threading technology support and even shared L3 cache of the same size. As for the differences, besides the supported socket type, they will differ in the configuration of the integrated memory controller and PCI Express bus controller integrated into Core i5 processors. As a result, most changes will actually occur in the platform rather than the CPU itself: Core i5 systems will support dual-channel memory instead of triple-channel DDR3 SDRAM, and all North Bridge functions will be taken over by the CPU.
It is obvious that these differences are insufficient to ensure radical market differentiation: the performance of Core i7 and Core i5 based systems may turn out unforgivably close. So, looks like Intel’s upcoming mainstream solutions may become a serious threat for the sales of high-end Core i7 CPUs. That is why we need to add one more thing to the list of differences between Core i7 and Core i5 processors, and this time it will be a pretty significant one: different clock frequencies. According to the manufacturer’s plan, Core i5 processors should work at lower frequencies than Core i7. However, Core i5 should still be faster than quad-core Core 2 Quad solutions, which means that Intel will have to speed up their existing Core i7 lineup first. Only in this case, if Core i5 processors take a spot between Core 2 Quad and Core i7, they will have their own market niche and will be demanded.
In other words, if Intel wants to make Nehalem processor mainstream, they have to act in a certain way: increase the performance of their Core i7 lineup and eliminate the junior slowest models in it. This is what Intel starts doing today. They are going to increase the clock speeds of their top Core i7 processors and announce two new models with 950 and 975 model numbers. As for the two slowest models in this family, Core i7 920 and 940 processors, they are on their final journey and are prepared to be discontinued shortly.
Our today’s article will be devoted to the new solutions in the flagship Core i7 family. As for Core i5, we are going to talk about them a little later, when we get closer to the official launch.