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Intel Core i7-870 & i5-750 – Nehalem for the Mainstream
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by Rob Williams on September 7, 2009 in Intel Processors

The wait for Intel’s Lynnfield has been long, but it’s safe to say that it’s been well worth it. They may be considered “mainstream” models, but the new Core i5 and i7 processors are powerful. Expect faster performance, improved power consumption and greater efficiency. With the i5-750 set to sell for $199, the time to build that new PC is now.

Introduction

Welcome to Lynnfield, also known as the worst-kept secret in history. Where technology is concerned, it’s not uncommon to see details released (rather, leaked) about a product long before its launch, but with Lynnfield, the months leading up to this day have been something else. The question lately hasn’t been so much, “What do we know?”, but rather, “What don’t we know?”

I have to admit, that because of this, publishing this article that we put so much time and effort into doesn’t feel quite as rewarding as it should. This is thanks in part not only to the flood of leaks of month’s past, but more because certain e-tailers don’t seem to mind breaking embargo by actually selling Lynnfield processors and P55 motherboards long before the launch.

While I wish some of the above events never occurred, the fact that Lynnfield was such an exciting product to test pretty-well overshadows them. Yes, I’m going to jump into the conclusion early… Lynnfield is amazing, and in many ways, I consider this launch to be much more important than Nehalem’s last fall. Why? As Intel puts it, this is “Core i for the mainstream”.

That quote is spot-on, because that’s just what Lynnfield is. When Nehalem launched last fall, Intel introduced a brand-new processor architecture that instantly became the best we’d ever seen. The processors were faster than the previous Penryn models, and with the addition of HyperThreading, a triple-channel memory controller and L3 Cache, Nehalem didn’t just push the bar higher, it jumped while doing it.

But, there were a few sizable caveats that prevented as much adoption as there could have been. First was the pricing, with the least-expensive model, the Core i7-920, selling for near $300. That of course would have been easy to stomach if the motherboards didn’t start out at $250. Couple those factors along with the limited availability of LGA1366 CPU coolers and (at the time) expensive DDR3 triple-channel kits, and the rough economy… it’s no wonder most consumers decided to settle for Core 2.

Welcome to Intel’s Lynnfield

The good news is that Lynnfield is different in almost all regards. With the introduction of the Core i5-750, we finally have a ~$200 option. We’re avoiding ultra-expensive motherboards this time around also, as companies such as ASUS and Gigabyte are prepping to release boards that range anywhere from $140 – $300. And because Lynnfield drops us back to a dual-channel memory controller, memory kits are plentiful, and affordable.

During the Nehalem launch, one major complaint I had was that it was near impossible to find a Core i7 CPU cooler at launch. There just weren’t any. I’m not sure who’s fault that was, but it doesn’t matter, because this is another bad situation that we’re avoiding. For the past six months, companies have boasted their LGA1156 CPU coolers and mounts, so you can expect a wide-variety of models to become immediately available.

One reason for the lack of delay from the CPU cooler vendors is seen below:


Core i5-750 (Left) & Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (Right)

That’s right… compared to the Core 2 Quad of old, the IHS and chip as a whole is almost exactly the same size. The mounts themselves are different, though, so don’t expect much luck with trying to use an LGA775 mount on a P55 motherboard.

Like Nehalem, there are many more contacts on the back thanks to all that’s bundled under the hood, so Intel has used its creativity in laying them out. Rather than simple circles, they’re oval, and placed at an angle. Of course, none of that really matters in the end, but it does result in the CPU remaining a modest size, so that’s important.

But what about the die itself? That comes in at 296mm^2 (compared to 107mm^2 of recent Core 2 Quads and 263mm^2 of Nehalem Core i7’s). That’s right. It might be a scaled-back version of Nehalem, but the die itself is larger thanks to the introduction of other components. The new Lynnfield chips cram 774 million transistors under the hood, while Nehalem Core i7’s have 731 million.


Core i5-750 (Left) & Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (Right)

Each time a new processor model is launched, the first question on everyone’s mind regards price drops. To clear the air, there will be no immediate price drops on either the Core i or Core 2 line-up – at least, not right now. Because of this, the Core i5-750 takes the crown for being the best value for the buck, as it retails for only ~$200 and manages to beat out the entire Core 2 Quad line-up in all of our tests.

Quad-Core CPU Name
Cores
Threads
Clock
Cache
QPI/FSB
TDP
1Ku Price
Intel Core i7-975 Extreme Edition
4
8
3.33GHz
1 + 8MB
3200MHz
130W
$999
Intel Core i7-950
4
8
3.06GHz
1 + 8MB
2400MHz
130W
$562
Intel Core i7-920
4
8
2.66GHz
1 + 8MB
2400MHz
130W
$284
Intel Core i7-870
4
8
2.93GHz
1 + 8MB
2400MHz
95W
$555
Intel Core i7-860
4
8
2.66GHz
1 + 8MB
2400MHz
95W
$285
Intel Core i5-750
4
4
2.66GHz
1 + 8MB
2400MHz
95W
$199
Intel Core 2 Q9650
4
4
3.00GHz
2 x 6MB
1333MHz
130W
$316
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550S
4
4
2.83GHz
2 x 6MB
1333MHz
65W
$320
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550
4
4
2.83GHz
2 x 6MB
1333MHz
95W
$266
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400S
4
4
2.66GHz
2 x 3MB
1333MHz
65W
$245
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400
4
4
2.66GHz
2 x 3MB
1333MHz
95W
$183
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300
4
4
2.50GHz
2 x 3MB
1333MHz
95W
$183
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400S
4
4
2.66GHz
2 x 2MB
1333MHz
65W
$213
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400
4
4
2.66GHz
2 x 2MB
1333MHz
95W
$163
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300
4
4
2.50GHz
2 x 2MB
1333MHz
95W
$163
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200S
4
4
2.33GHz
2 x 2MB
1333MHz
65W
$213
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200
4
4
2.33GHz
2 x 2MB
1333MHz
95W
$163

Yes, this list really is Intel’s current line-up, even though many of the models seem a little redundant (and overpriced, given the circumstances). You can bet in the coming months this list will thin out fast, especially as more Core i models are released to replace the remaining Core 2 line-up.