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Intel Core i5 And Core i7: Intel’s Mainstream Magnum Opus

Intel Core i5 And Core i7: Intel’s Mainstream Magnum Opus
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Intel’s emphasis right now is on Clarkdale, the Nehalem-based mainstream lineup centering on a 32nm process shrink. Clarkdale will be the foundation on which upcoming Core i5 and Core i3 CPUs are based. It’s a big deal for Intel. So big, in fact, that I was told jokingly two weeks before the Lynnfield launch that the whole company had been focusing on Clarkdale, not the Core i5 and Core i7 we’re seeing today.

Of course, that’s only really funny for the folks who’ve already seen how the Lynnfield-based processors actually perform and know they’re not as anemic as an enthusiast might expect, given the fact that Intel is aggressively pursuing integration, aiming for a SoC-type design in the not-so-distant future.

But Clarkdale is six months away, at least. Today is all about Lynnfield—the Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs for Intel’s LGA 1156 interface.

The Venerable Core 2 Rides Off…Sort Of

With the divulging of its Core i7, Core i5, and Core i3 branding, Intel quietly rang the death knell of its Core 2 family, which has been with us for more than three years now, gently massaging away memories of a day when the company ravenously chased after faster clocks.

That transition won’t happen immediately, though—or even quickly for that matter. Well into the fourth quarter of next year, Intel’s Core 2 architecture will remain a value play. Even today it’s going to persist as a viable option for entry-level buyers.

Core 2 Quads span from $163 to $316 in the company’s August 9th price list. Core 2 Duos range from $113 to $266. Does the trio of CPUs being launched today wreck a number of those price points? Absolutely. Do the three Lynnfield processors we’re seeing now, from $199 to $555 smother Core 2 Quad and Core 2 Duo to the point that everyone will spend at least $200 on their next CPU? Obviously not.

Wait, Define Mainstream

To make a long story a little shorter, Bloomfield sits at the top of Intel’s stack as Core i7 for LGA 1366. Lynnfield now occupies a space between the high-end and the mid-range segments. Yorkfield (Core 2 Quad) becomes this transitional family that tides Intel over until Clarkdale launches in Q1’ 2010. And Wolfdale continues on in the dual-core Pentium family through the course of 2010.

If you would have considered a Core 2 Quad or Phenom II X4 previously, the lone Core i5 will be of interest to you. If you were previously pondering a Core i7 for LGA 1366, the Core i7-860 and -870 are now vying for your attention with price points disturbingly similar to the i7-920 and -950, respectively. How’re you supposed to choose between CPUs when architecture, functionality, and pricing are all so similar?

Intro to Core i5/i7


Good question—this is one of the areas where we’re going to be particularly critical of Intel today. The naming is a mess if you’re not already familiar with the technology. Fortunately, Intel puts function ahead of marketing, so there’s a lot more exciting innovation to cover than confusing branding. Let’s just get that out of the way, first.

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Top Comments
  • 15 Hide
    cabose369 , September 8, 2009 5:43 AM
    Intel needs to come up with a simplified naming system for their products. They are as bad as NVIDIA is right now in terms of naming their products.

    There is sooo much to learn and there is so much information here.... I feel confused!!
  • 11 Hide
    evolve60 , September 8, 2009 6:36 AM
    "Intel Core i7-920 Extreme (Bloomfield) 2.66 GHz, LGA 1366, 4.8 GT/s QPI, 8 MB L3, Power-savings enabled"

    Since when has the I7-920 become an extreme?
  • 11 Hide
    JeanLuc , September 8, 2009 8:38 AM
    The AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE is running at 3.4Ghz.............I can remember only a few years ago AMD bragged about getting 'more work done per cycle' where as Intel responded by increasing the clockrate. It now looks like the tables have completely turned and it's AMD that has to keep increasing the CPU frequency to stay competitive.
Other Comments
  • 3 Hide
    caamsa , September 8, 2009 4:37 AM
    Dang! AMD better get their $4iT together. Now I need to decided between i7, i5 or phenom II when I do my next upgrade........technology happens too fast. Looking forward to more reviews on the i5 and mb prices.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , September 8, 2009 4:49 AM
    People need to be careful when comparing the i7-870 to a i7-920, alot of people pre-release were worried that the 1156 platform was going to dominate the 1366. However when you see the 870 out perform the 920 people need to remember that a 870 is double the price of a 920, and even when you factor in a motherboard a 920 setup comes out cheaper than a 870.

    Now the i5 750 on the other hand is great performance at a great price, and would certainly be the budget gamers new weapon of choice.

    I currently have an i7-920 setup which is my main rig and am very happy with it and not at all upset to the see the 870 outperform it (since the 870 would cost me twice as much). I also have had an i5 750 setup now for over a week (the 1156 processors and motherboards have been available here in Australia for nearly 2 weeks now) and it is an amazing processor for the price of it.

    So what am I trying to say? 1366 is still a good platform for the top end of the market. The i5 are fantastic new processors for their price, and the 1156 i7's are just confusing and I'm not really sure who they are going to appeal to? I could understand it if Intel launched the 1156 i7's in 6months time when alot of users are already using the 1156 platform and are looking to upgrade their CPU without a new mobo. But to anyone looking at getting a 870, just get an 920 and use the extra cash on the mobo and ram to go with it.
  • 8 Hide
    Nintendork , September 8, 2009 4:56 AM
    A little confusing the charts.

    I would prefer a bench with HD4890. They scale better in CF.
  • 0 Hide
    aspireonelover , September 8, 2009 5:00 AM
    I can tell, I'm gonna fall in love with the i5 processor
  • 15 Hide
    cabose369 , September 8, 2009 5:43 AM
    Intel needs to come up with a simplified naming system for their products. They are as bad as NVIDIA is right now in terms of naming their products.

    There is sooo much to learn and there is so much information here.... I feel confused!!
  • 1 Hide
    alikum , September 8, 2009 5:45 AM
    Well, I just hope that the Core 2 Quads will drop in prices significantly so that I could grab the high-end one for my final LGA775 upgrade!
  • 3 Hide
    buzznut , September 8, 2009 5:46 AM
    Well this is good news for consumers. I'm not certain why it took so long for Intel to make some mainstream proc like i5, but for intel fans it seems worth the wait.
    This will also compel AMD to bring some more value to the market. Nice article.
  • -4 Hide
    jawshoeaw , September 8, 2009 5:48 AM
    damn, 150 watts at idle?? Is that just the cpu? I hope the gaming rigs built on these processors are not left on 24/7. My old AMD X2 3800 system including the monitor uses less than 150 watts at idle (50 of which is the 22" LCD).
  • 1 Hide
    unclewebb , September 8, 2009 5:54 AM
    i7 Turbo is a good tool to monitor the multiplier of Core i5/i7 CPUs.

    http://www.fileden.com/files/2008/3/3/1794507/Turbo.zip

    It uses the method that Intel recommends in their November 2008 Turbo White Paper.
  • 11 Hide
    evolve60 , September 8, 2009 6:36 AM
    "Intel Core i7-920 Extreme (Bloomfield) 2.66 GHz, LGA 1366, 4.8 GT/s QPI, 8 MB L3, Power-savings enabled"

    Since when has the I7-920 become an extreme?
  • 3 Hide
    Dekasav , September 8, 2009 6:36 AM
    jawshoeawdamn, 150 watts at idle?? Is that just the cpu? I hope the gaming rigs built on these processors are not left on 24/7. My old AMD X2 3800 system including the monitor uses less than 150 watts at idle (50 of which is the 22" LCD).


    The power readings are for the whole system, not just the CPU. And their readings are a bit higher than yours because their video cards are almost certainly more power-hungry than yours, and they have a quad-core cpu, running significantly faster than your dual-core (4 cores at ~3Ghz vs. 2 at ~2Ghz, which SHOULD use more power?)
  • 1 Hide
    dragonsprayer , September 8, 2009 6:59 AM
    Nice article as always THG rules! Ouch amd!

    hey guys some tests done at the same cpu speed would be helpfull! thx!
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , September 8, 2009 7:01 AM
    Thanks Dragon--check out the In Theory piece that also went up today. It has i5, i7, i7 LGA1366, Core 2, and Phenom II at 2.8 GHz in a bunch of games!
  • 2 Hide
    th_at , September 8, 2009 7:02 AM
    Deekay_alot of people pre-release were worried that the 1156 platform was going to dominate the 1366.


    Who was "worried"? It would've been AWESOME (although not to expect of Intel) if the lower-price platform would've outperformed the high-end item.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , September 8, 2009 7:02 AM
    evolve60"Intel Core i7-920 Extreme (Bloomfield) 2.66 GHz, LGA 1366, 4.8 GT/s QPI, 8 MB L3, Power-savings enabled"Since when has the I7-920 become an extreme?


    Typo--thanks for the catch evolve. Pulled that table from a previous review and missed the Extreme!
  • -1 Hide
    dragonsprayer , September 8, 2009 7:03 AM
    Also - this address people above too and the article.
    When you set up an i7 system you turn off the HT and turn up the speed! Turning off a core might even be an upgrade for some. But i agree, the i5 is really a good plateform the mid-mid high level people and at a lower price.

    above - too long for intel? for main stream? you could buy a 8400 and run it 3.8 in any system and it rocks.

    people have to learn that overclocking is not what it once was, intel does not build all that into the procesor and chipset for nothing so use it! core 2 is still a good main steam system, abit, no upgrading
  • 1 Hide
    Korok , September 8, 2009 7:57 AM
    Where is the i7 860?

    Great read, by the way
    All the mixed rumors were really misleading
  • 3 Hide
    Intel_ARK_Dude , September 8, 2009 8:14 AM
    FYI: All of the Lynnfield-based parts are here:
    http://bit.ly/Lynnfield

    And a side-by-side comparison with all the key stats are here:
    http://bit.ly/LFDcomparison
  • -9 Hide
    bigdaddycool , September 8, 2009 8:37 AM
    The problem with Intel no matter how special they make they CPU's is they have absolute crap when it comes to motherboards.

    AMD is feature packed, Intel is feature lacked.

    Intel make good chipsets yes, Intel make good reliable boards (proper intel boards) yes, intel make good CPU's yes.

    But Intel have worthless motherboard line ups.... I am happily an AMD fan, I will take my Phenom II with the slower speed for the quality of board I can buy to run it.

    Intel & Motherboards = Fail.

    Until they improve there, numbers mean zero to me. Why pay more when you get less?

    PS. We used to sell all Intel at my work, we now sell 99% AMD. Price, value as a packaged. If Intel had better feature motherboards things might change until then. AMD builds a platform not just a CPU.
  • 11 Hide
    JeanLuc , September 8, 2009 8:38 AM
    The AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE is running at 3.4Ghz.............I can remember only a few years ago AMD bragged about getting 'more work done per cycle' where as Intel responded by increasing the clockrate. It now looks like the tables have completely turned and it's AMD that has to keep increasing the CPU frequency to stay competitive.
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