Intel's new mainstream range represents an affordable alternative to the Core i7-900s - and one that's more appealing for everyday computing. The LGA 1156 platform is built around new "S-series" chipsets (the first to appear being P55 and H55).
These are cheaper to produce than the X58, which in turn means cheaper motherboards. That's a very good reason why LGA 1156 is likely to become the true successor to LGA 775 in the coming generation.
And just before we went to press with this Labs, Intel threw a spanner in the works by sending us the brand-new 32nm Core i3 and i5 models. For a full appraisal of the technical side of these new chips, including their integrated graphics performance, we'll be posting an in-depth review. Here, we'll cover their place in the Intel line-up.
The Core i3 parts are the new lightweight end of Intel's family. With the CPU and GPU on the same chip, they're ideal for far more than just media machines and everyday web browsers. They may only have two cores, but they pack a hefty processing punch.
Even the cheapest model, the Core i3-530, scored 1.58 in our benchmarks - that's faster than the majority of the Core 2 Duo range, and even some Core 2 Quads. Early pricing is always a bit variable: an initial $150 looks reasonable if a little high, so it won't be threatening the real budget parts until that drops.
The low power consumption could easily sway you to pay the premium, though. Moving up the price scale, the Core i5-600 parts add Intel's Turbo Boost technology, making them tremendously powerful, but again they're a tad dear to start with.
The Core i5-661 - the "1" denotes a faster graphics core - almost matches the Core i5-750, yet it's priced at $252. These prices may fall over the course of March, so check online and see where these parts would sit in the graph here - you may find their value improves quickly after launch.
|Results and ratings: Intel Core i3, i5 and i7-800s
As well as these new 32nm chips, the LGA 1156 socket will accommodate the existing Core i5-750, and the confusingly branded i7-860 and i7-870. The use of the i7 name across two mutually incompatible CPU sockets isn't intuitive, especially since the i7-800 parts have more in common with the LGA 1156-based 2.66GHz Core i5-750 than they do with the higher i7 models.
Nevertheless, these lesser i7s, based on the 45nm Lynnfield core, come with the same 8MB of shared cache as their Bloomfield cousins, along with a 2.5GT/sec DMI bandwidth and a more modest 95W TDP. The i5-750 lacks Hyper-Threading, but is otherwise barely distinguishable in design.
Calling these i7's "lesser" models isn't entirely fair, though, as Lynnfield parts actually have a key advantage over their heavyweight cousins. A more efficient design process means they can squeeze much greater speed increases out of the Turbo Boost system - which makes for some surprising benchmark results.
The i5-750 is undoubtedly the pick of the bunch, scoring an impressive 1.85 at a price of just $228. That's cheaper than a top-end Core 2 Duo and several of the Quads, yet it outperforms them all. It also comes close to matching AMD's Phenom II X4 965 for both power and value.
The longer-term appeal of the LGA 1156 platform makes up for the slightly dearer motherboard - and these will steadily fall through the start of 2010. True, the new Westmere Core i5s will match it in many applications, but serious system builders will prefer the four cores of the excellent Core i5-750.