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'Nehalem' 2.93 GHz Benches Revealed

Several days ago we took a look at Intel’s next generation X58 platform for Nehalem in which we explained that the new chipset will be bringing along several new features. The most significant of these features is QuickPath, which is a brand new link architecture very similar to AMD’s HyperTransport, and getting rid of the front-side bus (FSB) system altogether.

What this means for enthusiasts is that old methods of overclocking will no longer work with Nehalem. What will happen is that the connection between the CPU and the northbridge (X58 MCH), will be based on an external clock multiplier running at 133 MHz. At this time, with an early X58 sample motherboard on hand, we’re still unable to change this frequency, but our motherboard sources tell us that this is a feature that will be available via the system BIOS once things go into full production.

Intel Nehalem CPU-z

Today however, we were able to really play around with a 2.93 GHz quad-core ’Nehalem’ processor. Unfortunately, we were not able to test the system for long, and therefore very little comparison could be made to another system. However, we did manage to run the chip through some common synthetic benchmarks. We will definitely be providing a full performance review. For today though, we have a quick look at how Intel’s next generation platform performs.

We used the following system specifications:

ProcessorIntel Nehalem 2.93 GHz
MotherboardPrototype X58 motherboard
MemoryCrucial Ballistix DDR3-1600 1GBx2
StorageSeagate SATAII 750GB (ST3750330AS/P)
GraphicsATI Radeon 4850 HD
OSMicrosoft Windows Vista SP1
Resolution1280 x 1024

The results so far are:

3DMark 06 1280x1024 noAAScore
SM2.0 score4605
HDR/SM3.0 score5600
CPU score5183
PCMark 05Score
CPU score9583

Just for reference, a similarly configured Core 2 Extreme X6800 at 2.93 GHz delivers a CPU score of 7417 - roughly a 29 percent difference clock for clock. When compared to a similarly equipped AMD Athlon FX-62 system, the gap widened even more, to a staggering 36 percent difference, with ’Nehalem’ taking a long distance lead. Keep in mind t hat this is actually very impressive, because our Nehalem platform is running on very early hardware, specifically the motherboard. We are expecting even better margins in the coming months as the platform matures. Keep in mind though that the CPUs above are all dual-cores. We’ll update with quad-core comparisons shortly.

3DMark VantageScore
CPU score17966
CPU Test1 (Plans/S)2515.1
CPU Test2 (Steps/S)23.08

Although this is a short preview, it gives us an overall idea of the potential that’s in Intel’s next-generation CPU. Nehalem is a huge step forward for Intel in many ways, leaving behind some old concepts, and taking a big step forward in other areas.

At its expected announcement in Q4’08, Nehalem will be released initially with 4-cores, and later scaling up from there. One detail to note is that HyperThreading makes a nice comeback as well. Our CPU read as 8 processors in Windows Vista.

Frequency potential with Nehalem in its current state of silicon, is very healthy, Intel told us during Computex earlier in June. With our preliminary tests of the 2.93 GHz CPU, we’re confident in saying that enthusiasts can expect even faster processor frequencies down the line.

Keep in mind this article is not meant to be a review, but is a short expose on the potential of the Nehalem family. We hope it gives you an idea of what to expect.

Update: Quick tests between our 2.93 GHz Nehalem unit and a quad-core Core 2 QX6800 (2.93 GHz) as well as an AMD QuadFX Athlon FX-74 (3 GHz) reveal the following:

PCMark 05Score
Nehalem 2.93 GHz9852
Core 2 Extreme QX6800 2.93 GHz8925
QuadFX Athlon FX-74 3 GHz7501

Performance between an early quad-core Nehalem at 2.93 GHz and a Core 2 Extreme QX6800 running at the same frequency reveals more than an 11 percent difference in performance. Meanwhile, Nehalem takes an even larger lead with a 24 percent between it and the higher clocked QuadFX Athlon FX-74. It’s interesting to note here that the quad core FX-74 is only roughly 7 percent faster than the dual-core Athlon FX-62m which is quite an old CPU now.

This gives a good view into the engineering behind the Nehalem architecture and the performance gains that Intel is able to achieve with even pre-production silicon. Very healthy? We definitely think so.

Update 2: As we mentioned earlier, this article was meant to give a brief introduction into some basic performance figures for Nehalem. Keep in mind that the CPU launch is still several months away. This is not meant to be an in depth review covering all CPU comparisons and charts. Fortunately, we were able to pull up PCMark 05 performance figures comparing Nehalem at 2.93 GHz and Phenom 9850 BE:

PCMark 05Score
Nehalem 2.93 GHz9852
AMD Phenom 9850 BE 2.5 GHz7400

The result is roughly a 33 percent difference. Right in line with what we predicted. For reference, the fastest Phenom available, the 9950 BE running at 2.6GHz was able to give a score of 7680, slightly above the Phenom 9850 BE by 3.7 percent. However, Nehalem is still faster than the fastest Penom 9950 BE by 28 percent.

We’ll release real-world gaming performance when we get more mature hardware through the labs.

Thanks to jumpingjack6 for correcting us on our percentage math. Nehalem is actually 33 percent faster than Phenom 9850 BE with a 17 percent clock difference