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.

  • 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?
  • exiled scotsman
    I suspect most people will just disable turbo mode. Although, if you do the math and overclocking with turbo mode might be the better choice. Especially if you can customize it. Say you are running a game. Nahelam detects that the game is single threaded shuts down two cores. It would be awesome if you could set rules to tell nehalem that when its in this mode to overclock the active cores to say 3.8-4.0Ghz. Once I'm out of single thread mode, and running multithread app, activate the idle cores, downclock to 3Ghz, and go on your way.
  • jeb1517
    It already does that.
  • jincongz
    erm, do you really want to go single threaded with games with vista? I think you might want to stick with two cores...
  • Indubstylo
    I think MAC OS has alot of influence in the innovation behind intel's upcoming products. In the end MAC OS will probably benefit the most from the fruits of intel's work. Windows still hasn't been engineered to utilize such processing power efficiently.

  • ZootyGray
    Turbo sounds like laptop power management. Such a tremendous innovation. Did I miss something? Cruise control? Well it's not autopilot, is it? I'm having a space odyssey. And HAL is taking over the grafx era.

    omg - all this endless talk - so we get a bigger spin on the prespun turbothingy and now we are told they have a monster computer. Then we are given a quik review of software for home movies (o neato) and the author likes that supr8 app that was seen at comdorx. fascinating.

    SHOW ME - shutup and push the start button - btw nice party you have here - no babe pix, nice touch. Where's the bar and the food.

    People seem lost on the convention floor.
  • iocedmyself
    You know what else would be awesome? If it din't come with an intel preffered customer 4-digit price tag. 140 - 190w heat load? what happened to low-power/low-heat/high-performance that they've been pimping for so long?

    Benchmarks have been limited, and until the chips actually hit the market and are tested by consumers...they don't mean anything. It doesn't matter if intel already has the performance lead or not, they cheat...time, after time...after time. Overclocking the thing is like having another gpu? Right, i'm sure raising the clock by20 or even 30% is going to match the 800-1200 Gigaflop/sec gpu processing power of an nvidia or ati card.

    Well actually, this being intel i suppose they could be using thier forthcoming larrabee as the referance.....i'd believe that. I mean, their 8 core larrabee, launching in the timely fashion of 6-9 short months will offer breath-taking computation performance of UP TO 250 Gigaflops/sec, sure that's about 1/5th the power of a $270 single core card that's already 3 months old...

    on the otherhand, that puts it in the realm of possibly delivering performance UP TO par with that of the ati x850XT PE card...the best video card that 2004 had to offer. GPU computation power has increased by a factor of 5.5 - 6 times in 3.5 years. But hey, it will only be a year between when the 4870 launched and when larrabee hits the market, and statistically single core gpu performance only rises by 42% each year.

    But whatever, if it's great for the $700-$1500 price bracket good for them. Personally i'm more interested in AMD's 45nm Shanghi. 4x512K L2 cache, 6mb L3 cache, DDR2 and DDR3 compatible through the cpu's IMC. The engineering samples that have gotten out are clocked from 2.3 - 3.2gjz. At 2.4 it already has a 30-40% clock-for-clock gain over 2.6ghz phenom's and even at 3.2ghz with 100% load on all cores the chip only has a power draw of 55-60 watts.When nothing can take productive advantage of any cpu's full potential as it is, would rather get the sub $300 chip that doesn't require immiediate upgrade to ddr3 that costs more than the cpu
  • elbert
    What will be really interesting is why would anyone pay the $1000+ for the 3.2GHz version when the 2.4GHz in turbo is nearly as fast. Currently this is true for only those that can overclock. I think this will force Intel to increase the price of low end to near $600 unlike what has been suggested.

    AMD's overclock tool requires a good deal of experience so Intel new design could have a few growing pains.