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Intel Core i7 'Nehalem' processor and X58 chipset

We put the chip giant's new architecture to the test

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The implications of this move are huge as it means that you could build a gaming PC around X58 and Bloomfield without having to worry about the type of graphics card you plan to run in 2009 or 2010. It also means that the hateful nForce 200 PCI Express chip is unlikely to make an appearance on many motherboards as X58 supports PCI Express (PCIe) in 2 x 16 or 4 x 8 configuration. If you’re desperate for Tri-SLI with 3 x 16 PCIe 2.0, you will need the extra chip but the majority of gamers can expect their motherboard choice to become simpler.

Intel X58 chipset schematic

Intel's X50 chipset schematic

They can also expect the motherboard to use less extensive – and less expensive – cooling as X58 is essentially X48 without the memory controller, although it has a QPI link to the CPU. The new chipset has less work to do than before and doesn’t require a heat spreader and as an added benefit your overclocking efforts are likely to leave the chipset voltage unchanged. Hurrah for common sense.

The first three members of the Core i7 family to go on sale are LGA1366 Bloomfield CPUs. The Core i7 920 runs at 2.66GHz and sells for $284 in batches of 1000, which currently means a UK price of £270. The Core i7 940 is clocked at 2.93GHz and sells for $562, which is a steep £493 retail over here.

The fastest Bloomfield is Core i7 965 Extreme, which has a clock speed of 3.2GHz and the usual Extreme price of $999. This would usually equate to £650, however we are seeing it on the web at £881. Holy Mother of !*?!!!

The 920 and 940 have a QPI bandwidth of 4.8 'gigatransfers' per second which is 9.6GB/s in each direction or 19.2GB/s overall. The 965 Extreme has a bandwidth of 6.4GT/s or 12.8GB/s in each direction for a total bandwidth of 25.6GB/s. The 965 Extreme is unlocked in the same way that all Extreme processors are unlocked, but the Core i7 is described as having its "Overspeed Protection removed".

Intel DX58SO mobo

Intel's DX58SO mobo: CrossFire, yes; SLI, no

Bloomfield won’t be the only variant of Nehalem as Intel has some LGA1160 versions up its corporate sleeve. The quad-core 'Lynnfield' and dual-core 'Havendale' will use a DMI bus with dual-channel DDR 3 memory. We may well see Nvidia chipsets for these processors although it 's hard to see what they would be able to bring to the party. In addition to the X58 chipset, we noted that the Intel INF driver also applies to chipset models 5520 and 5550, so it seems that there are more Nehalem chipsets in the works.

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