Intel Core i7 (Nehalem)

All this architecture stuff is all very interesting, but what's actually important to most of us is what will be available to buy in the shops. Or, more likely, online. One other noteworthy point is that although the embargo for writing about Nehalem lifted today, CPUs aren't going to be on sale until 'later in the month' for some reason. Don't ask us why, we're as confused as anyone!

Retail chips, aren't actually going to be called Nehalem as that's a codename applied to any chip using that architecture. As far as desktop, consumer CPUs are concerned, you'll be buying a Core i7 processor. I can't say I like the name, but I can't do anything about that so there's no use complaining.

From launch there will be three flavours of Core i7 to choose from. The top end Core i7 965 Extreme Edition comes clocked at 3.2GHz and will cost around £830, a step down bags a 2.93GHz Core i7 940 for about £470 and the cheapest Core i7 920 comes clocked at 2.66GHz for about £270. At least, that's what the figures will be if the quoted prices in dollars convert directly to pounds. However, knowing that Intel usually sells its flagship CPUs (in this case the i7 965) for £1,000+, it may be wishful thinking.

The Core i7 940 and 920 have slower 4.8GT/s QPI links than the 965 Extreme Edition, which boasts a QPI running at the full 6.4GT/s. Not that I'd expect that to make too much difference in the real world - it's more likely just eliminating any potential bottlenecks.

Oddly, at launch these CPUs will only be rated to work with DDR3 800MHz or 1,066MHz even though all the documentation we've received quite clearly says DDR3 1,333MHz is supported by the CPU itself. Although word has it the latter might be certified as officially supported shortly after launch.

Looking at current Core 2 Quad pricing, Core i7 actually shapes up pretty well. The Core i7 920, which is the CPU most of you are likely to be looking at, should come in at around the same price as the Q9450 it replaces in terms of clock speed while offering better performance to boot.

Saying that, Penryn-based CPUs are bound to see some decent cuts once Nehalem chips hit the shelves so the decision isn't quite as clear cut as it might sound. The main point is that Core i7 doesn't look set to carry a hefty price premium.

It may not be as revolutionary a release for Intel as Core 2 Duo was, but Core i7 is still a big deal. Nehalem is faster clock for clock than Penryn, uses less power and makes much more efficient use of the power it does draw.

On the desktop, then, Core i7 is interesting, but nothing for most to get excited about just yet. What's really got me excited is notebook Core i7 which is set to launch next year. In fact, one could be forgiven for thinking Nehalem's architecture was designed with laptops in mind. That's hardly a bad idea given the current trend the market is taking.

Of course we've been putting Intel's latest chip through the ringer, so if you want to find out how it performs in comparison to the best that Core 2 has to offer, take a gander at our Core i7 benchmarks.

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