Intel gave a briefing today on what the public should expect to see in its upcoming Core i7 processors and the X58 chipset coming with it.
Stephen Thomas from Intel’s Platform Applications Engineering division gave a complete overview of the Core i7 processors as well as the specifications for the X58 chipset. The Core i7 will change several things over the Core 2 processors, including an integrated memory controller as well as the new Intel QuickPath Interconnect, which will eliminate the Front Side Bus (FSB). Beyond that, we can expect the first wave of i7 Processors to come with 12 MB of unified L3 cache, and also have the OverSpeed Protection removed, good news for all you overclockers out there.
Another bonus coming with the new Nehalem architecture is how the processor will handle heat. With current processors, if a given heat is reached, the processor will automatically go to its lowest available frequency. While the processors will also lower the frequency, it will not automatically go down to the lowest possible point, instead utilizing a step process, going down one small step at a time until a desirable temperature is reached.
One of the most innovative features being found in the new Nehalem chips is the Turbo Mode, which will automatically overclock one or two cores in given situations. If only two of four available cores are needed, Turbo mode will kick in, shutting down the two unused cores as well as boosting the frequency of the other cores (add one performance bin to each). If only one core is needed, three will shut down and the frequency of the one active core will be boosted even more two performance bins).
The biggest change we will see with the new processors and chipset is a new socket, LGA1366. Because of the increased size and thus increased tension, Intel is changing how the processor attaches to the motherboard by separating the retention mechanism from the board. Instead of being soldered to the board, the retention mechanism will screw into the board after the manufacturer or enthusiast places the processor into the bracket. Also, because everything is bigger, you’ll need a new heatsink or cooling solution, so if you plan on investing in a new i7/X58 setup, be prepared to buy a new aftermarket heatsink or liquid cooling system.
The new X58 chipset will bring a lot of welcome additions and changes, including three memory channels, which will allow for up to 24 GB of DDR3 memory. The new chipset will also use ICH10, so look for the expected eSATA as well as 12 USB ports.
As far as discrete graphics support is concerned, you should expect what is already available – two x16 or four x8. It’s also noteworthy that the new ICH10 will be Halogen free, making the new chipset a little more environmentally friendly. Also look for the inclusion of Intel Turbo Memory, allowing for up to 4GB of memory to be attached, which should help with performance across a wide array of applications.
Stay tuned for more in-depth reports of Nehalem, as we’re only scratching the surface.