Intel Core i7 Performance Preview

by Rob Williams on November 3, 2008 in Processors

With Core i7’s launch due in just a few weeks, there’s no better time than right now to take a hard look at its performance, which is what we’re taking care of today. In addition to our usual performance comparisons with last-gen CPUs, we’re also taking an in-depth look at both QPI and HyperThreading performance, and some of our results may surprise you.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully by now you have a good idea of what Core i7 brings to the table, and what it doesn’t. I think it’s safe to say that Intel successfully brought back the same spirit that came with the original Core 2 launch. That particular launch unveiled products that were substantially faster than the previous-generation, and the same thing can be said again today.

Nehalem wasn’t merely a rehashed Core 2, but rather a micro-architecture built almost from the ground up. In just two years, we went from seeing fast Dual-Cores to fast Quad-Cores and now even faster native Quad-Cores, plus we get many more perks on top of all of that. You might just have a reason to be excited.

When Core i7 first landed in our lab, the first thing I wanted to check out was Turbo, and after all my experience with it, I can say it’s probably one of the biggest new additions to Core i7, and it’s something that will actually benefit everyone. On the lowest level, if you are using any application that tops out the first core, you’re going to receive a clock speed faster than what it says on the product box, by 266MHz, or 133MHz if you are topping out entire CPU all at once.

HyperThreading is without question one of the most important new features of Core i7. It alone is responsible for massive speed increases in various scenarios, including rendering jobs. The performance gains seen in the ray tracing scenarios specifically were jaw-dropping, although the general 10% – 30% gains seen elsewhere are also going to be appreciated by any 3D artist or video guru, professional or not.

At this point, it’s difficult to see the real importance of the QPI speed, as our tests showed virtually no performance difference between 4.8GT/s and 6.4GT/s. As more models become released, we may begin to see a trend, but as it stands, there doesn’t seem to be any real boost in performance of any kind that can be attributed to just the QPI.

Aside from those new features, a few things do still leave me a bit confused, such as gaming performance and overclocking. As I mentioned on the previous page, I’ll be spending a lot more time on overclocking this coming week, so I’m sure I’ll be able to post a lot more information later this week. Still, it goes without saying that Core i7 overclocking doesn’t spoil us like Core 2 did.

Gaming-wise, things are a little more complicated, because as we found out through the two games we normally test with, Core i7 performs a little worse than Core 2. Why exactly this is the case, I’m unsure, but it appears that those two specific titles are some of the few that experience the issue. This is one thing in particular that will be tested in more depth this week as well, and we’ll be able to deliver follow-up gaming results later this week.

All of that aside though, Intel has once again further secured their spot as the CPU leader with the Core i7. With each new processor launch, we expect to see performance increases, but with i7, some of the increases are mind-blowing. For those who use 3D design tools or video-creation tools on a regular basis, Core i7 was built for you, as the performance seen there definitely blew away the predecessor.

Stay tuned to the site as we’ll be bringing you a lot more on Core i7 in the coming weeks. As always, if you have anything to say, or specific requests of things to test out, feel free to post in our thread linked to below and toss your words onto our virtual paper. As a reminder, today is not the official launch date for the new processors, but I’d expect it to happen within the next three weeks.

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Rob Williams

Rob founded Techgage in 2005 to be an 'Advocate of the consumer', focusing on fair reviews and keeping people apprised of news in the tech world. Catering to both enthusiasts and businesses alike; from desktop gaming to professional workstations, and all the supporting software.

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