First Look: Intel's Nehalem

Later this month, Intel will be launching its next generation microarchitecture -- formerly codenamed "Nehalem." With future variants coming out for server and mobile applications, the first processors are designed for the desktop, all under the Core i7 umbrella.

The first three CPUs at launch are all quad-core devices capable of eight threads (two threads per core). Future iterations will include six and eight cores, also each with two threads per core. In addition, the most powerful of the three, the Core i7-965 Extreme Edition has an unlocked clock multiplier.

The Core i7 ushers in yet another, larger socket profile, this time called Socket B (aka LGA1366). This may be a potential issue for some VARs and system builders with Intel inventory, but it's nothing they haven't gone through before.

In conjunction with the Core i7, Intel is also releasing the new X58 chipset. Since Nehalem processors have integrated memory controllers, the X58 does not have a memory interface. The X58 also incorporates Intel's latest system interconnect design, QuickPath Interconnect (QPI), and has a PCI Express Interface with support for dual x16 and up to quad x8 graphic card configurations, or any combinations in between.

Known as the "SmackOver," Intel's first X58 motherboard to support the Core i7 series is the DX58SO. Although when paired with the Extreme Edition processor the system did extraordinarily well in our tests, boards from other manufacturers are expected at, or soon after, launch, which will take advantage of even more of the features of the new chipset.

In addition to the Extreme version, under the Core i7 umbrella Intel has a Performance version, and a Mainstream version (respectively, the Core i7-940, and the Core i7-920). The unlocked, extreme Core i7-965 version runs, out of the box, at 3.20 Ghz. The i7-940 has a 2.93 Ghz clock, while the i7-920 is a 2.66 Ghz processor. Correspondingly, in thousand unit quantities, per-pricing for the latest CPUs is $999, $562, and $284.