Overclocking Nehalem "almost As Good As Having A Second Graphics Card" - Intel

San Francisco (CA) - Benchmarking and overclocking the upcoming Intel Nehalem processor is going to be tricky business, but Francois Piednoel says we will see "dramatic" speed increases. At the Intel Developer Forum today in San Francisco, Intel’s Francois Piednoel and Matt Dunford outlined the various issues in benchmarking people will face when testing the new chips. Perhaps the trickiest of them all will be the "Turbo Mode" which according to Piednoel will be "aware of its environment" and change clock speeds according to temperature and current.

Turbo mode will dynamically alter the speeds of the four cores once the processor gets out of a thermal envelope. Dunford and Piednoel told reporters that the BIOS menus will have a menu to select thermal dissipation (TDP) numbers. If you have a really good heatsink, you could crank this number to 190 watts. Conversely, an average heatsink would warrant a rating of 140 watts or below. Once the processor detects that it’s going out of this envelope, it will start clocking itself up/down. The processor will also try to move poorly threaded applications to few cores.

The Turbo Boost throttling could obviously vary benchmarking results and Piednoel said someone testing the chip in Singapore versus a cooler environment will probably see a difference in speeds. Thankfully, the throttling only takes place when the processor is out of the thermal envelope and Piednoel promised that Turbo Boost can even be turned off in BIOS.

Since many games are single threaded, the turbo mode will actually give perhaps a 10% increase in potential frames per second. Of course there’s a big difference between potential and actual frame rates and Piednoel said we can expect "single digit" gains for most games. Multithreaded games like Lost Planet and benchmarks like 3D Mark Vantage should see a dramatic difference from the 8 threaded Nehalem and Turbo Boost.

Turbo Boost could be considered a "self-overclocking" feature and in a properly cooled environment, Piednoel proclaimed that the results from Turbo Boost and traditional will be "almost as good as having a second graphics card." Boy I bet AMD and Nvidia will love that comment.

To show off the power of Nehalem, Dunnford and Piednoel had a monster computer with the processor and four solid-state drives giving an insane 1 GB sustained transfer rate. In a demo we saw at Computex, Intel loaded up Sony Vegas 8 with a 1 GB video file in less than five seconds. They also demoed a picture and video viewer that organizes photos/videos based on calendar date. You can zoom into the days of the calendar and the content you shot that day will appear in thumbnails. Videos appear as moving clips. No more clicking the OK button or guessing which video you shot first or last - everything is organized perfectly.

As a professional photographer and videographer this is a huge deal. After filming an event, I often have dozens of clips that I have to import and sort. Usually this involves transferring them into a folder and then dragging each clip into Sony Vegas or VLC. After watching the clips, I label them and move them into appropriate folders. This program shows all the video clips in time-stamp order. And all the clips are moving, at the same time.

"You’ll be able to manipulate videos the way you manipulate pictures today," Piednoel said.

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  • elbert
    Benchmark testers will have a hard time with this turbo mode. I wonder to get an apples to apples compare to phenom would testers need to overclock 2 cores and underclock the other 2? Maybe it would only be an equal test to turn off turbo mode. The AMD utility would be a bit harder for the average computer user so im not sure and noise or power draw would surly go against intel if turbo mode was only allowed.
  • safcmanfr
    what will this mean for "normal" overclocking? could we still take a 2.6GHz Nehalem and overclock to 3.8GHz? (like we can do with current processors)

    DO we have to start working out TDP numbers to overclock? (i.e how much TDP will my water cooling take?)

    some new OC guides might be in order.
  • kitsilencer
    So I can buy a 4870x2 now and get great frame rates, or, buy a 4870, wait several months, and get "almost" the same performance. Easy choice, huh?