What is Intel’s Core i7?

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Geek!This is Kyle Allen’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Core i7 brings us Intel’s first true quad core processors, all four cores are now on a single die. Previously Intel’s Quad Core’s were essentially two dual core processors in one package. The current Core i7 line includes three Quad Core Processors, the 920 (2.66GHz), 940 (2.93GHz), and 965 Extreme Edition (3.2GHz). Currently priced at $294.99, $569.99, and $1029.99 respectively (Prices from Newegg).

The only Chipset that currently supports the Core i7 architecture is Intel’s own X58 express, offered by many manufacturers such as Intel, Asus, Gigabyte, Foxconn, EVGA, MSI, and Biostar. The X58 chipset supports ATI CrossFireX technology, Nvidia has even opened up SLI support for the X58 express chipset, although motherboard manufacturers must submit their motherboards to Nvidia for review. Core i7 brings many new technologies and even brings back some old. Intel has brought back Hyper Threading technology which allows each core to process two threads of information simultaneously, so each of the Core i7 processors have 8 threads and are seen as 8 Virtual Cores by the systems OS.

Core i7 isn’t just Intel’s new line of Processors it’s an entirely new, much improved architecture. Intel has replaced the Front Side Bus (FSB) with its new Quick Path Interconnect (QPI) which can achieve data transfer speeds as high as 25.6 GB/sec. Intel says QPI performance is 6.4 Gigatransfers/second on the 965 Extreme Edition and 4.8 Gigatransfers/second on the 940 or 920 CPUs, the resulting bandwidth is either 16 or 12GB/s respectively. Intel’s Core i7 bring us an integrated memory controller which offers improved performance due to increased bandwidth and lower latency. Core i7 processors now feature L1, L2, and Shared L3 Cache, 64K per core, 256K per core, and 8MB shared respectively. Core i7 only supports DDR3 and bring us fast triple channel memory, it is also recommended that memory is operated below 1.65V.

Core i7 also features advanced Power Management features, Power Gate allows individual cores to enter a sleep state while other cores are under load, the processors include integrated power controllers and a power control unit that actively monitor each cores power consumption, and voltages. Having integrated power controllers and a power control unit is important to the Core i7 architecture because it allows the CPU to transfer power from cores in sleep mode to cores under load in what Intel calls “Turbo Mode.” If one of the cores is being used heavily, it can use some of the power that would ordinarily be used for one of the other cores if it is not currently in use to essentially overclock individual cores. Lastly Core i7 introduces a new CPU socket the LGA 1366, a 1366 pin socket that functions similarly to the current LGA 775, but is slightly larger and the CPU cooler mounting holes are further apart.