Not too long ago, Intel unleashed Nehalem, or Core i7, upon the world. The new Core i7 chips are not just new processors; they also introduce an entirely new platform, and this combination produces some impressive performance figures, according to Ars Technica. “The new performance gap between Nehalem and pretty much everything else of comparable cost is the result of upgrades to both the CPUs core architecture and the platform on which the multicore chip now runs.” Respected in-depth review sites AnandTech and Tom’s Hardware agree with Ars’ findings.
Ars Technica reviewed the 731 million transistors processor, and Ars writer Joel Hruska came to his clearest and shortest conclusion to date. “I had three areas I wanted to explore: [hyper-threading] performance, performance scaling in Nehalem vs. the QX9650, and the performance difference, if any, between 32-bit and 64-bit mode,” Hruska states, “Having done so, I could almost write the shortest conclusion on record: Nehalem is great, Hyper-Threading = generally awesome, and 64-bit > 32-bit mode.”
In more detail, he explains he has yet to find a single weakness (apart form the relatively high prices for the processor itself and the new motherboards and RAM):
Nehalem’s performance is excellent from any angle, from single-threaded, unoptimized ALU/FPU tests to eight-way threading through Maxwell, or Handbrake. The tests I’ve listed here are not the sum total of programs I’ve thrown at Intel’s Core i7, but I’ve yet to find the magic tests that expose Nehalem’s secret weakness.
As for Hyper-Threading, it’s an asset here. There will always be certain real-world scenarios that require HT to be turned off if one wishes to achieve maximum performance, but I’ve yet to find them. At worst, Hyper-Threading does no harm. At best, it provides an extra oomph to a chip that scarcely needs it.
The even more detailed Tom’s Hardware review of the Core i7 platform pretty much agrees with Ars, but adds a comparison with AMD’s flagship CPU into the mix.
The performance comparison with long-time rival AMD’s offerings is nothing short of painful. The fastest Core i7, the 965 Extreme, is more than 2.6 times as fast as AMD’s current flagship CPU, the Phenom X4 9950 BE. Across our benchmark suite, the AMD processors never placed better than towards the lower middle of the field, tending instead to fill the lower spots.
AnandTech is just as lyrical about Core i7 as Ars and Tom’s Hardware.
The Core i7’s general purpose performance is solid, you’re looking at a 5 – 10% increase in general application performance at the same clock speeds as Penryn. Where Nehalem really succeeds however is in anything involving video encoding or 3D rendering, the performance gains there are easily in the 20 – 40% range. Part of the performance boost here is due to Hyper Threading, but the on-die memory controller and architectural tweaks are just as responsible for driving Intel’s performance through the roof.
In the entertainment industry, this is what we call “released to raving reviews”.