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?
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.