AnandTech has a preview of the new Intel chips coming out this fall, codenamed Lynnfield (some are referring to it as the i5).
There is quite a bit of uproar on tech forums regarding this new chip. Where does it fit into the current Intel lineup? If they are priced as rumored, what happens to the i7? the Core2Quads? What about the motherboards?
Well, in a nutshell, this new chip uses a new socket LGA-1156 instead of the i7 socket which is LGA-1366. It also uses a new, more mainstream chipset in the P55 instead of the X58 for the i7. There are a few other differences in the way that it handles video and memory, but really the article does a better job of explaining it than I can. They are similar in it has the same 4 cores, the same cache, same architecture. Some of the models will have Hyper-Threading (HT) enabled, others won’t.
Performance-wise, this falls right smack-dab in the middle of the i7’s performance numbers (depending on the model) for many of the benchmarks. So what does that mean for us, the consumers?
Author Anand Lal Shimpi says it best in his article when he says (emphasis mine):
Why would anyone want a LGA-1366 system then? I believe there are three major advantages to the LGA-1366 platform for single-socket desktops:
- Support for Gulftown. You can only get 6-cores from the LGA-1366 platform in 1H 2010, Intel currently doesn’t have any 6-core LGA-1156 parts planned.
- More overclockable CPUs. The best yielding Nehalems (and highest clocked Nehalems) will be LGA-1366 processors. I wouldn’t expect any 1GHz+ overclocks from LGA-1156 CPUs.
- More bandwidth to PCIe slots. I don’t see this as a huge advantage today, but there may come a time when having as much bandwidth to your GPUs as possible is important. I’m thinking general purpose GPU computing, DX11, OpenCL sort of stuff. But we’re not there yet.
So if you want/need the extra performance, you’re going to go with an i7. I think, as Nvidia’s CUDA becomes more mainstream there will probably be additional reasons to put multiple GPUs on a motherboard, especially for very specific and high end applications. Also, there are some areas where the i7 just really kicks-arse like in video encoding, 3D rendering and other multi-threaded applications. In particular if you’re comparing a non-HT enabled Lynnfield (why would you bother) with an HT enabled i7. Games and other consumer level software on the other hand (which is usually what people buy these chips for anyway) might be better off with the Lynnfield. Intel is probably A’OK with that.
The Lynnfield prices are expected to be about the same as the lower i7s are right now. But, when you couple that with a vastly cheaper motherboard (prices expected around the same levels as P45 based boards today), the entire platform becomes a whole lot cheaper. At least $100 right off the bat, really more since you’ll be buying DDR3 in pairs instead of triples (i.e. 4GB instead of 6GB) and you’ll get very similar performance in the applications that matter to most consumers. This then positions the i7 as the real “high-end” CPU.
Anand quotes himself from a previous article, which I will quote here.
“The breakdown seems pretty simple: if you’re the type of person who bought the Q6600/Q9300, then Lynnfield may be the Nehalem for you. If you spent a bit more on your CPU or are more of an enthusiast overclocker, the current Core i7 seems like the path Intel wants you to take.”
The people who may actually come out ahead in this scenario are those who got an i7 920 ($200-$300) paired with a less expensive (I can’t say “cheaper” since they are all high-end boards) motherboard around $200. All told spending around $400-500 for a really high-end system, and (hopefully) a motherboard that will see them through the next iteration of LGA-1366 CPUs including 6-core+HT in the coming year.